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NEWS | Sept. 7, 2023

New captain leads top artillery battery

By Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Crane, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

At the helm of Charlie Battery of the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery, is Army Capt. Graciela Arias Tharp, the first female battery commander for the battery.

She recently took over as commander for the battery and during this year’s annual training, her Soldiers won the title of ‘Top Gun’ in May.

The Top Gun Competition allows units to send their best sections to compete on fire missions and other supporting tasks for bragging rights and a boost of morale at the end of a strenuous exercise.

Her battery winning the ‘Top Gun’ award, is a reflection on how she leads troops and how she looks at her role as a leader.

“My attitude has always been that I want to work hard,” said Tharp. “I want to understand what we do I want to not be a burden to anyone. I want to come in and do as much as I can to facilitate the successes of whoever I'm working with. It's just been an honor to be here and I want to do it well, and to be an example for everyone else coming up, regardless female or male.”

She joined the Kentucky National Guard in 2018 and originally was looking to go into something the medical field to match what she was doing in her civilian career as a speech language pathologist, but got a taste of the field artillery, she was hooked.

“I thought I wanted to go medical services or adjutant general but when I was in Officer Candidate School, we had an opportunity to do a call for fire and I thought it was really cool,” she said. “When field artillery was offered as an option, it was kind of a no brainer.”

With the 138th Field Artillery, she started in Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion where she was the first female officer in the unit as a platoon leader prior to attending Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC).

“It was a cool and distinct opportunity to kind of get to know the culture and it has always been a very great honor to be able to be somewhere where women hadn't been allowed before,” she said. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them and kind of see how they operate. But also getting to see like what they do and once I got to start seeing the unit shooting and what we actually do it was it was pretty special."

After she returned from BOLC, she transferred over to Alpha Battery as the fire direction officer, or FDO, where she got a better understanding of what the unit was doing when they were shooting their weapons systems, as well as, the roll the FDO has. She also learned how important getting the data correct for making sure they get the effects they are looking for.

She looks back on her time with Alpha Battery as a very important position for her where she learned a lot about her job and about leading Soldiers in an effective way.

From there, she went on to be the S2 (processing of intelligence and tactical information for the commander) for the battalion for a year which led her to the role as the commander where she is currently.

She laughs a little when you ask about challenges she faces as a leader because as a 5 foot 0’ female in the field artillery where the rounds are 95 pounds each, her size would stand out the most as an obvious one. But it is something that has never held her back.

“It's such an honor for me to be able to not only be a part of this, but to be able to lead Soldiers and artillerymen in doing what we do,” she said. “So for me being a female, I think that it was always something that I held as a treasure because we haven't been here before you know and I wanted to come into every position or everything that I that I do with the attitude of, ‘I want to do the job with excellence’.”

And that is exactly what she has brought to her company and the brigade as a whole in every position she has filled.

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