By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
Q: How do you feel about being the first female commander of Fort Knox?
A: It’s a wonderful opportunity, but I will say—from the bottom of my heart—I’ve never been denied an opportunity because of gender. Our Army is fantastic at talent management. What I have seen over time, regardless of gender, regardless of race—it does not matter. It’s all about matching the person’s talent and experience with the job they’re going to take. You have to have the right fit.
I don’t think it’s anything particularly special, other than managing talent. I have been in training jobs for nine years, and this is a training job, associated with training leaders and that’s why I believe I was selected to be here, I have the training bona vitas.
Q: You began your career in ROTC, correct?
A: Absolutely, so this is like coming home. It’s such a thrill because I wouldn’t have gone to college without ROTC; I’m here now because of ROTC. I believe in the mission and I believe it’s incredibly important and how we shape the future of the Army—one at a time. That’s what I love about it; we shape the future of the Army one leader at a time here at Cadet Command. It’s exciting to be a part of that.
And being here on Fort Knox, that’s amplified. We recruit all these great folks for our Army and HRC takes what we recruit and they manage the talent the best they can, producing the best current and future Army. This place is all about the future and making our Army better. Think about the recruiting, individualized personnel management, and all the training commands on the post and the guard—we all do the same thing; develop the future one at a time. What’s not to love about that?
We’re all provided opportunities, regardless of gender, without bias or prejudice—that’s what’s great about our Army. We don’t struggle with equal pay for equal work. In our Army, rank is rank. You get paid by your rank and time in service; it has nothing to do with how you look or who you know and everything to do with your potential and what you’ve achieved.
Q: So you essentially decided to serve in the Army to get an education?
A: Yes, and I never thought I would be in the Army. But I’m the first person on both sides of my family to go to college. It was a big thing; I’m the oldest of four and the family couldn’t afford college. The only way to go, at that time, was through the Army ROTC scholar-ship. So, I said, “I’ll pay back my four years,” and here I am, 28 years later. I always tell people, as taxpayers, you paid for my education; I hope I’m worth it. I hope you got your return on your investment; 28 years for four years of payback.
Q: Do you have any female role models?
A: Believe it or not, my mom is my role model. I know a lot of people would say that, but I would not be an Army officer today without her and I wouldn’t have gone to college without her bringing home that Army ROTC scholarship application and saying, “I think you ought to try this.”
I’ve very proud of her; she raised four kids, served in the Army Reserve, worked full time; she was always able to balance multiple things. I took a lot of lessons out of her playbook, just watching her operate through those years. She’s been a role model and an inspiration. She’s very kind hearted and generous, which just shows you her values.
I think my high school coach also; she told me I should consider going to college. I played four sports, plus cheerleading—it was a very small high school—and she taught us early on to work hard and work as a team.
That team mentality directly influenced me—that’s what the Army is, a huge team. So her modeling of what right looks like really shaped a lot of my thinking.
That’s my leadership style. It’s all about the team. You can’t do anything without one. With one you succeed; without one you fail. It’s all about valuing each and every member of the team. The values my mother taught me about respecting people and my coach about teams, those two molded me.
Q: Do you feel responsibility to mentor other women in the Army?
A: Leader mentorship is genderless; I try to mentor all those who work for me, no matter the gender. I don’t like to divide folks out into different groups. I can tell you that many of the concerns that females have are the same that men have. How do you balance the military and family? We have a lot of dual military couples or military officers married to full time working spouses. Whether you’re a mom or a dad, you worry if you can give enough time to your family. I like to think of them as Soldier issues and do the best I can to develop everybody.
To me, challenges are challenges; they’re genderless. This is the human business. It’s all about the interaction between the leader and the led. Regardless whether you’re a male or female leader, there is always friction. So a lot of folks just want to talk about the friction and how to deal with it. Whether they are different genders or the same gender, it’s really just a human dynamic.
There were gender specific issues earlier but we have evolved as an Army—actually, as a society because we are a reflection of the people we serve. I don’t deny mentorship to anybody and I’m always available.
I tell Soldiers if you’re having a personality conflict, that’s OK, but don’t let anyone steal your greatness. Bottom line, if you don’t get along with your boss, don’t let that impact what you do for your folks and your Soldiers. If you do, you’re letting that conflict take away your greatness. Why would you do that? You control what you can control. Your sphere of influence is all you can control. It’s the human dynamic that you won’t get along with everybody. Personalities don’t always click.
I think the Good Lord gives everybody this seed of greatness and it’s up to you to nurture it. How it comes out is up to you—it’s up to you to put in the hard work, nurture it, water it, make it grow and you control that, no one else.
Q: What are some of your most memorable moments in the Army?
A: I spent a lot of time in a joint environment. Working with the newest female recruits in the Iraqi army, it was very interesting to see their perspective. They were absolutely confounded by women Army officers, but even more impressed by women NCOs, by the education level in our NCO Corps. They were amazed that we serve proudly and openly; a lot of them had to sneak away from their families and then put their uniforms on. They were most interested in our education; I don’t think they equated the professionalism of our Army to our education. That’s what makes our Army the world’s best; we’re the most educated Army in the world and it’s be-cause of the investment that America puts in her Army. So we have huge shoes to fill when you think about it that way. There’s a huge investment in us to represent this great country. It’s mind-boggling to me.
Q: Why is it important to celebrate Women’s History Month?
A: I think all the observances are good—I think there are 12 or 14—because they remind us of the Army’s diversity and perspectives. I think that’s the power of the United States Army, its diversity. Taking time out to look back and recognize the unique contributions of different groups is a good thing. If we can’t take an hour out of our month to appreciate our history, our diversity—what else is more important?