Face of Defense: Soldier, Student, Trailblazer


Army Spc. Arshia Gill is one of the many new female soldiers stepping into combat military occupational specialties previously closed to women.

But, for Gill, she’s more than just a trailblazer — she’s an engineer, a student and a soldier all wrapped into one. Gill is a combat engineer with the Washington Army National Guard’s Alpha Company, 898th Brigade Engineer Battalion.

“If I had an opportunity to do this all over again, even though it’s really difficult managing it, I definitely would; it’s a cool experience,” Gill said.

“She’s always the first one wanting to learn and go do something,” said Sgt. Jason Longmire, with Alpha Company, 898th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “We were doing urban breaching [training] yesterday and she was right there, right next to the door, maybe five or 10 feet away holding the blast blanket so that no one got hurt.”

Gill’s company commander, Capt. Brandon Buehler, describes her as a warrior and a true combat engineer. Combat engineers are expected to be able to build structures, operate explosives and do the appropriate mathematics to ensure that both are done correctly.

Double Life

When she’s not at drill, Gill is a full-time student at the University of Puget Sound. The two lifestyles are night and day. Her school’s trim and manicured campus is a world away from the hot and dusty field training at…

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