First Sergeant Francesca Hartman-Piccoli, U.S. Army, two tours to Kuwait and Baghdad, Iraq; 18-year veteran
Power of Being Female: This Civil Affairs Airborne (Jump Master) shares, “In 2009, I was asked to become a Drill Sergeant at Ft. Knox, Kentucky as the only female Drill Sergeant within a Brigade of 1500 soldiers. I was assigned to instruct new all-male recruits to become Soldiers. It was important to embed me into the Brigade of all-male soldiers to show that the capabilities of females in the U.S. Army are as proficient and capable as male soldiers.”
I joined the U.S. Army 18 years ago and as I quickly approach my retirement
window there’s a drive I fight daily to stay in till I can no longer walk. I have enjoyed my career in the military and as a woman at the top of a predominantly male career field, I have endured some of the hardest obstacles along the way. But character isn’t built by being handed a Louis Vuitton bag with a script for your well designed, calculated and paid for future. I fought for that frivolous bag with a cautious eye on price…because it was my pocket it was coming from and every dollar equaled sweat. But I told myself I deserved it because I worked hard for it and I was worth it and I feel that way till this day!
I grew up very poor with 5 brothers and sisters, 2 of which also joined the military. The military is very commonplace for low-income kids trying to build something for themselves when there’s initially little to build from. I joined at 17 years old before Sept. 11, 2001, I was in Basic Training when the twin towers were hit, and at 19 years old I found myself in the deep deserts of Baghdad driving around 2,500 gallons of JP8 Fuel every day with a daily counted pray on my window. Just before my 21st Birthday I finally came home but I wasn’t the same child that left mom and dad, I was something else.
At 23years old, I was selected to be a Drill Sergeant and attend the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy at Ft. Jackson, NC. In 2009, At 25 years old I found myself yelling in the faces of men as old as 40 years because the recession had left so many broke and hopeless that joining the Army was the only thing left. And the last thing someone already at rock bottom wanted was a 25-year-old yelling at them to do anything, so my heart broke every day as I brought both boys and men up to become Soldiers because I knew they would see the worst in combat like I had and they needed to be prepared.
At 29 I joined Civil Affairs and a different world was presented. As a 1SG of a company of 40 paratroopers, I had to become a paratrooper myself and within a year’s time, I progress to becoming a Jump Master. I have lead missions all around the world, to include jumping into the outback of Australia with kangaroos occupying the drop zone. I participated in multiple missions ranging from South Korea, Alaska, to the Philippines to name a few.
Now at 36 years old, I am at the Defense Language Institute finishing my studies in French. Where this skill will send me and a team into Combat areas of Africa to conduct military operations. So in short, I don’t see myself nearing retirement in 2 years I see myself still doing what I love… Representing strong women by fighting on the front lines!
Years Served: 2001-Current
Military Occupation: Civil Affairs Airborne (Jump Master) 38B
Tours Served and Locations: Served 1 tour (1.5 years) Kuwait and Bagdad, Iraq March 2004 with 1st Cavalry Division Combat Engineer (heavy) as a Petroleum Supply specialist HEMTT Operator (Fuel Truck). Multiple other countries in support of military operations and exercises.
Most rewarding, memorable experience in service: “In 2009 I was asked to become a Drill Sergeant at Ft. Knox, Kentucky as the only female Drill Sergeant within a Brigade of 1500 soldiers. I was assigned to instruct new all-male recruits to become soldiers. It was important to embed me into the Brigade of all-male soldiers to show that the capabilities of females in the U.S. Army are as proficient and capable as male soldiers. I still maintain that report with a consistent 300+ on my Army Physical Fitness Tests, leadership and instructional guidance. When I realized I was over 30 years old and jumping from a perfectly good airplane. For me to achieve career progression in the military I was required to attend airborne school as a First Sergeant after 18 years in the Army. Despite the daily physical toll, it took on my already broken body I knew that I had a requirement and that Airborne school was just a stepping stone to that. I have realized that dedication to the mission, expertise and professionalism is what got me to where I am now.”
Favorite beauty routine: “Feeling beautiful after I get out of uniform is very important to me. Maintaining my physical fitness is always a priority but a very close 2nd to that is defying age. I am very big on maintenance and age prevention. I really like Estée Lauder Advanced Night Micro Cleansing Foam for a face wash, Estée Lauder Revitalizing Supreme+ for a moisturizer and Neutrogena rapid wrinkle repair regenerating cream for an eye wrinkle cream.”
Civilian Occupation and/or collegiate accolades: “At this time the military is my main occupation, I am currently at the Defense Language Institute learning to speak French. I had a number of civilian occupations and achievements along my way. In 2010, I competed in my 1st IFBB Bikini competition and from there went to the Arnold Classic placing Top 5 and was introduced to the editors of Oxygen magazine where I had the pleasure of shooting for that magazine with a focus on weight-loss due to a history of weighing nearly 200lbs at 5’2”.
In 2016, I signed a contract with CBS, filmed Season 29 of The Amazing Race and aired in 2017, where I successfully embarrassed myself a number of times on national television, but truth be told… I wouldn’t have had any other way now. I have an A.S. in Accounting/ A.A. & B.A. in Justice Administration- Hawaii Pacific University Masters in Education, M.ed from Arizona State University. Taught Title 1- 3rd/ 4th/5th Grade!
Next year will be the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, in the last nearly 100 years the leaps and bounds that women have made in America is amazing and we are on a fast train heading up. Over these past 10 years the U.S. Military has opened its doors to women operating in Combat arms units and despite having been on the front lines during Operation Iraqi Freedom I and II women are finally being recognized for the same combat risks only men were thought to have faced.”