Battle buddies on the bridge

Story by Sgt. Brandy Mort, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau fires a 105mm Howitzer cannon loaded by Spc. Natasha Bean, supply specialist for the 138th Field Artillery Brigade during the 2015 Thunder Over Louisville, April 18. Bean and Spc. Tiffany Dirolf were two of the Soldiers from the 138th providing artillery salutes from the 2nd Street bridge during the event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — At Thunder Over Louisville, there are a lot of certainties. If the weather is good, crowds will be big. The air show is cool and during the breaks, people look up to the Second Street Bridge and eyeball the cannons and Soldiers who man them. But it isn’t always a man.

Spc. Natasha Bean and Spc. Tiffany Dirolf, supply specialists assigned to the 138th Field Artillery Brigade, were chosen by brigade leadership to support the cannon salute. The pair loaded the cannons for chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank J. Grass, and Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, adjutant general for the Kentucky National Guard, before the air show kicked off.

“It was an absolute honor to load the sound for Gen. Grass,” Bean said. “He is one of the top officers in the military and not a lot of people get to meet him, let alone prepare him to fire a cannon.”

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Spc. Tiffany Dirolf, supply specialist for the 138th Field Artillery Brigade, loads a practice round in a 105mm Howitzer cannon during the 2015 Thunder Over Louisville, April 18. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

Before the Thunder mission, the entire cannon salute team received training on how to properly load the 105mm Howitzers. The field artillery is a combat arms branch, and females typically aren’t assigned to fire crews.

While their presence on the team was a significant honor for the battle buddies, Sgt. 1st Class James Marcum, chief of smoke of the firing battery, said they were tactical and professional while teaching the generals how to fire them.

“I think the Soldiers did an outstanding job,” said Marcum. “They only had about 30 minutes to prep the generals and they did fantastic. They should be very proud of what they have accomplished today.”

Best friends outside the uniform, Bean and Dirolf went to basic combat training together, were in the same company for advanced individual training, and deployed to the Horn of Africa together in 2012. They both took pride in their selection to fire the Thunder cannons, and hope it encourages other females to consider opportunities in the guard – even better if it is with their best friend.

“Always having my best friend with me and sharing the same dream helps,” said Bean. “I don’t know where I would be without her.”

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