Young female soldier is the fire chief on the largest artillery of Kamp Holland
She is only nineteen years old, but Kamp Holland’s biggest artillery does not fire a single shot without her. Guardian Erika from the dutch Army is the fire chief on the panther howitzer, a 36 ft long artillery gun that can shoot over 20 miles with great precision. The passion for the army was there at a early age. “As a child I wanted to be in the army, it’s so tough! My father sometimes told stories about his years of service and together we visited all introduction days from the army. That made me more and more enthusiastic. When I finally became 16.5 years old, I signed up that same day”.
As the fire chief, the dutch woman is the link between the troops in the field and “the piece”, as the armored howitzer is affectionately called by the troops. “In the control center of Kamp Holland I have contact with the observer in the field by radio. When the troops are in trouble, you have to respond quickly and correctly”, Erika says from the sun-drenched rooftop of the Pantzerhut, the shelter of the Cobraplatoon. “We enter the coordinates and ammunition in the computer and then double check everything because the consequences of the bombs are very large. At the same time, everything is passed on to “the piece” that is now ready to fire. We have to be constantly prepared for this. That makes our work heavy. If you want to go to the toilet, you must first report this to the commander. Even if we are running around the camp, a car will drive with us so that we can take action immediately in case of emergency”.
“In order to stay sharp, we do a lot of procedure trainings. Our commander suddenly calls “O-Minutes!”, Where everyone drops everything. The bomb must be on the target within a certain time, but we try to do it faster. We have succeeded in half of the time! “.
Erika arrived in August last year with the Bravo Battery, Charlie Peloton from the Royal Dutch Army. There she came into contact with the panther howitzer and it was love at first sight. “The sound of that machine is great! For that you are an artillery-soldier, to find that beautiful! “. That she is the only woman in the peloton is no problem for her. “In the beginning they try to give you a little bit, but it is mainly about how you deal with it yourself”. Commander Daniel: “In the beginning, she was tested by the boys. But now for us Erika is just one of the guys”.