FORT KNOX, Ky. –
A loud blast followed by flames shooting underneath a trailer towed by a M113 Armored Personnel Carrier sent dirt and rocks flying in all directions on a range here in February, 2018. Soaring into the air was a solid-fuel rocket launched from an inert M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge or MICLIC on the trailer. An armed MCLIC carries a several hundred-foot long cord of 1,750 pounds of C4 explosives and creates pathways as wide as semi-trailers in minefields.
This launch shook the buttoned-down APC of the 449th Mobility Augmentation Company commanded by this female U.S. Army Reserve officer. Little did Capt. Amanda Duffy know that months later, she was going to be launched into history.
Duffy, who agreed the launch really shook the APC, made history after becoming the first USAR female officer selected as a MAC commander. A MAC “clears the way for maneuver units” with missions like assault gap crossings, mounted and dismounted breaches and emplacing obstacles.
For the last several years, Duffy has served with the company or the company’s battalion, the 478th Engineer Battalion under the 926th Engineer Brigade in administrative roles. She replaces Capt. Nelson Page.
“I have no doubt that she will continue to excel at the organizational aspect of the company and drive forward with the Ready Force X mission,” said Page. The company has to be ready to deploy in 90 days in this RFX status.
Page said he is impressed with Duffy’s leadership skills. Duffy, the MAC’s former executive officer for almost two years, downplays the historic selection. She was selected by the Brigade's command team.
Duffy proves herself
Brigade Commander Col. Paul Mattern said Duffy's initiative she demonstrated during the company’s Extended Combat Training and “her ability to understand a unit’s training requirements,” assisted in the selection. Duffy also serves as the company's Army Reserve Administrator.
“I look at it as this being my first command and I am excited and nervous at the same time,” Duffy said.
Duffy noted she is excited to see what lies ahead for the company.
“And there is a lot being added into not only the MAC tasks but also preparing us for something bigger that we are unsure of at this moment,” said Duffy who has been a captain since December, 2017. “So I do not want to fail. “I want to ensure that I am a good example for those who come after me.”
The company and Battalion have set the example. The 449th was the first of the Battalion’s four MACs to achieve the second highest level of readiness validation after being certified in GATE III, a section-level gunnery, and Engineer Qualification Tables (EQTS) X through X11 here Feb. 4-23, 2018. The EQTs included the firing of inert MCLICs.
The remaining companies followed suit in the validation exercise; meaning the Battalion was the first in the TEC to accomplish the feat.
This experience gave her a better understanding of what it takes her company to successfully execute its Mission Essential Task Lists tasks, said Duffy.
Duffy has a role model
Duffy knows whose leadership style she wants to emulate. That of U.S. Army Reserve Col. Michelle Link, commander of the 372nd Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command. Link also was the Battalion’s first female commander.
“She is very approachable and she wants to know her Soldiers,” said Duffy. “She lets her noncommissioned officers and officers do their jobs. But if they fail, they will know they failed. I hope to someday to have a leadership style like that.”
Duffy looks forward to working with her company’s leadership and its Soldiers to assist them in realizing their potential.
“I think the Soldiers know I am here to help them succeed in whatever they choose to do,” she said.
Joining the military was a life choice
Regarding making a choice, Duffy said as a 21-year old college student, she was “unsure where my life was going.” This was the reason she chose to join the military.
Duffy’s choice to serve the country would have made her relatives proud, including her great grandfather who served as an engineer officer with the Active Army in World War I.
Duffy spent three years as an enlisted Soldier. She graduated from Engineer Basic Officer Leadership Course in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in November 2012.
She said she chose to become an officer to make a measurable impact.
“I always tell myself if at the end of the day if I have helped just one person, then it was a good day,” said Duffy. “As an officer I feel like that happens. Soldiers always need help or someone to listen to. It is where I feel like I succeed the most.”
More than a month later upon her graduation, Duffy was deployed to Afghanistan with the Kentucky National Guard.
She said this deployment taught her several things while being a platoon leader in a vertical engineer company, including how there is something to learn daily in the engineering field whether it be construction, route clearing or bridging.
She admitted that the stereotypical animosity toward being led by a female officer occurred. So much so she said she wants another chance to lead a company in a similar environment.
Duffy transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve post deployment. She said she needed a change and she wanted to fulfill her original reason to join the military.
“Instead of getting out, I had hopes of getting a new found love for being in the military and it has done just that,” said Duffy of her time in America’s Army Reserve.
And now, Duffy is building America's force for the future by being one of the women in a combat position.