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Former Greensburg resident to make Army inroads in arms-support role

| Monday, July 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Cicely Verstein, 21, a Mt. Pleasant native who is the  first woman to enlist in an Army combat arms support job.
Cicely Verstein, 21, a Mt. Pleasant native who is the first woman to enlist in an Army combat arms support job.

As a teenager in Westmoreland County, Cicely Verstein raced go-karts. Soon she will be the first woman in the Army to repair a Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with a cannon, anti-tank missiles and a machine gun.

Verstein, 21, a graduate of Greensburg Central High School who now lives in Morgantown, W.Va., is the first woman in the country to qualify for an Army combat-arms support job. The Army opened six such jobs to women on May 14.

“It's been a month and a half, and we've got one qualified,” said Brian Lepley, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command. “She went into the recruiting office and said, ‘That job is good. I want it.”

Verstein told the Army she always enjoyed working on motors and the job looked like fun. The Army plans a news conference on Tuesday in Morgantown to formally announce her achievement.

Just five years ago, she finished seventh in a race at the Acme Speedway.

The Bradley is considerably bigger than the go-karts she raced. It weighs 33 tons and carries a crew of three plus up to nine infantrymen.

Last year, a review requested by Congress and directed by the Secretary of Defense examined the expansion of roles for women in the armed forces. The Army eventually added the six combat support jobs; the others are multiple-launch rocket system crewmember or fire detection specialist, field artillery firefinder radar operator, M1 Abrams tank system mechanic and artillery mechanic. Women still are not eligible for jobs as infantry, armor, combat engineers and special forces.

“We realized that women have been exposed to fire, most famously with Jessica Lynch,” Lepley said, referring to the American POW from West Virginia who was wounded in an ambush of her convoy in Iraq and was later freed. “It's not predictable warfare anymore.”

Verstein first thought about joining the Army five years ago before the troop drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her interest in the military initially met resistance from her family.

“They're a lot more behind me now than they were then,” she told the military. “They realize I have a better view of what I want to do with my life now than they were then.”

She and her mother, Joyce Dupre, declined to say much publicly before the news conference, but Dupre said, “I'm very proud of her.”

Verstein will go to basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., on Nov. 26 and later go to Fort Benning, Ga.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at or 412-320-7828.

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