FORT HOOD — Maj. Christina “Chrissy” Cook said sometimes she’s called ma’am, sometimes major and sometimes “mama” by her team — a tongue-tied slip that, she said, probably comes out because “ma’am” sounds like “mama.”
Cook is the first woman in the 1st Cavalry Division to qualify on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and was the officer in charge of the team from 3rd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, that earned the title of “Top Gun” during a recent gunnery exercise at Fort Hood.
With 2nd Lt. Arnulfo Ahumanda as jump commander, Staff Sgt. Rudy Kulp as battalion master gunner, 1st Sgt. Jeremy Northcutt as gunner and Pfc. Paul Kurashewich driving, the team scored 835, passing nine out of 10 engagements, during Table VI gunnery in June.
Cook, who arrived at Fort Hood a year-and-a-half ago, said she needed to qualify on the Bradley when she became the operations officer for the engineer battalion.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Cook said, explaining that her crew members saw her as just another officer instead of a female officer.
The qualifying process took about six months of training and occurred in six phases, all while the crew performed their daily job responsibilities.
Cook said she and her team practiced at every opportunity — mornings, evenings, holidays and weekends.
“We (started) terrible, but we came a long way,” Ahumanda said.
Eventually, the team saw major improvements after practicing daily, he said.
When she wasn’t training with her crew, Cook said she would train with her 8-year-old son, James. He’d act as the gunner, and she’d act out all the other positions, she said.
“I told my son, ‘Mommy’s going to be part of history,’” she said, explaining that she wanted to let him and her 5-year-old daughter, Grace, know they could do anything they put their minds to. “... I tell him that he’s part of history too because he’s helping Mommy.”
To other females coming up the ranks, especially as combat slots open up, Cook said they should focus on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities and have support.
“Find a mentor that you can talk to, because any adjustment is tough, but it’s about standards. It’s not about whether you are male or female,” she said.