Female Firsts: African-American Soldier Promoted to Command Sergeant Major

Command Sgt, Maj. Veronica LaBeaud
Melanique LaBeaud, New Orleans native, places command sergeant major rank on her mother, Veronica LaBeaud of Pineville, La., at a Louisiana National Guard promotion ceremony at Camp Beauregard. This makes LaBeaud the first-ever female command sergeant major in the 256th IBCT, and the first-ever African-American female command sergeant major in the Louisiana National Guard. LaBeaud will now serve as the command sergeant major for the 199th Brigade Support Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Command Sgt. Maj. Veronica LaBeaud of the 199th Brigade Support Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is more than just another Soldier. She is an inspiration.

After serving 32 years in the military, LaBeaud recently became not only the first African-American female command sergeant major in the Louisiana Army National Guard, but the first-ever female to earn this high rank in the 256th when she was promoted in a ceremony at Camp Beauregard in December.

LaBeaud took time to personally thank numerous family, friends, and colleagues for helping her achieve this accomplishment. “I still have a whole lot to do, and I promise I’m going to make everyone proud,” she said. “All the barriers they talk about, whether its race or gender, it’s not about that – it’s about working hard and going after it.”

Lt. Col. Jason Mahfouz, battalion commander of the 199th BSB, said the recent reversal of the policy that prohibited women from serving on the front lines in combat units made the appointment very fitting.

“I am proud the BSB has this distinction. I know she’ll inspire young enlisted females to rise to the rank and responsibility,” said Mahfouz. “It will open up a lot of opportunities for young Soldiers because it illustrates that all Soldiers have unlimited opportunities if they work hard to achieve their goals.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Sapp, senior enlisted advisor for the 256th IBCT, added, “It’s a new beginning by having LaBeaud serve in the 256th. She’s a go-getter – a Soldier’s person. She loves to communicate with Soldiers and never forgets where she came from. She brings something different to the table.”

Making the day particularly special for LaBeaud was that her daughter, Melanique LaBeaud, an audiology doctoral student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., could attend.

“I’m so proud of her,” Melanique said. “She’s been an inspiration to me my entire life. She set the bar high. Today proves it all paid off.”

Melanique said she couldn’t miss her mother’s promotion, even with her heavy academic workload as a third-year student.

LaBeaud raised her daughter as a single parent and primary caregiver. When Melanique was in elementary school, she went back to college to get her Bachelor of Science degree. This meant a lot of sacrifice for both of them, so LaBeaud said the achievement was a joint endeavor and success.

“As Melanique got older, she started to understand what that sacrifice was about,” LaBeaud said as she choked up.

As for the many young enlisted female Soldiers, LaBeaud has these words of advice: “If they set their goals high, it’s attainable. They just have to work hard, and there is no reason they can’t make it. It wasn’t easy, but I made it. You just have to really want it, and if you do, you can achieve it.

LaBeaud graduated from Southern University in New Orleans with a bachelor’s in computer information systems. She has held four different military occupational specialties and previously served as first sergeant for two different units: Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 139th Regional Support Group; and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 165th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

Visit our jobs board to learn which Army National Guard military occupational specialties are right for you, and contact a Recruiter today.

Original article courtesy of Louisiana NationalGuard. Story and photo by 2nd Lt. Rebekah Malone, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office.

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If It’s Experience You Crave, Get It in the Guard

When Specialist (SPC) Freddy Valencia joined the Army National Guard in 2011, he was a little different from most recruits.

SPC Freddy Valencia

SPC Freddy Valencia

“Money for college was a big draw for a lot of guys my age,” SPC Valencia said. “But not for me.”

Why? Paying for college was already taken care of, so the only debt he owed was the one he owed himself.

“I was always interested in joining the military, but I had a choice to make and I went to college instead,” Valencia said.

When he was done with college, Valencia decided he didn’t want to have any regrets in life.

“So I looked into the service, and the Guard offered me the experience I craved while allowing me to continue my civilian career. It’s experience you can’t see online or get in a Google search. There’s a lot about the Guard that you’re not going to learn from your Recruiter. You just have to experience it for yourself.”

It was that experience that Valencia was after.

For example, if not for the Guard, he would not have had the opportunity to participate in the German military’s Fitness Proficiency Test – an intense, but incredibly rewarding fitness challenge.

Here’s how that came about. Valencia’s Company Commander is the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) instructor at Salisbury University. He arranged for a Sergeant Major from Germany to monitor the two-day event in which participants attempt to qualify silver or gold and earn a badge for their uniform. Valencia, about 19 other members of his unit, and Cadets from the Commander’s ROTC unit all participated.

“It’s a great measure of fitness,” Valencia said. “Over two days, you had to do the high jump, shot put, 1000-meter sprint, 3k or 5k timed run, 200-meter swim, 9mm marksmanship, and a 7.5-mile ruck march. I qualified for the gold badge. It was just a new, different, and valuable experience.”

In addition to the discipline it takes to meet the physical fitness requirements of the military, Valencia said he has gained management experience in the Guard that has been invaluable to his civilian career.

“One of the things you hear about all the time is the importance of being motivated,” Valencia said. “I use what I learned in the Guard to keep my employees motivated, keep them proud of their work, and keep them working for each other.”

Having no regrets in life – check. Gaining valuable experience – check. Having fun while you’re at it? Check.

“I don’t feel like I’m going to work,” Valencia said about his weekend duty. “I feel like I’m going on a field trip.”

Get your experience in the Army National Guard in one of more than 200 career fields. Go to the Job Board today to find the best path for you.

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Sniffing Out Danger: Army National Guard’s Chemical Operations Specialists

A fully protected Chemical Operations Specialist“NBC” likely means something very different to you than it does to the National Guard’s Chemical Operations Specialists. Whereas most people would associate NBC with a television network, Chemical Operations Specialists understand it to be something deadly: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) agents that could be harmful or fatal if inhaled or contacted with exposed flesh.

These substances, often used in industrial and commercial processes, are transported by railroad, waterway, and roadway, where, as we all know, accidents happen. If they do, NBC agents could be released into the air, water, or soil.

Now imagine that our military also faces these agents in weaponized form. The nuclear arms of our enemies obviously deliver a radioactive payload that can cause untold damage. And history has shown us that our enemies are willing and able to deploy chemical agents as well as biological weapons.

The Army National Guard, because of its dual State and Federal mission, must be prepared for both of these contingencies.

Doesn’t sound like a day at the beach, does it? Of course not, but it’s what the Army National Guard’s Chemical Operations Specialists are trained and ready to handle.

A few weeks ago, we posted a story from GX Magazine about Staff Sergeant (SSG) Alex Raber who described the procedures necessary for containing a chemical spill or radiation leak. He mentioned some of the equipment used on a mission, but On Your Guard wants to take a closer look at some of the life-protecting equipment that makes it a little easier to enter a potentially harmful situation.

First there’s the vehicle, either a six-wheeled Fox M93 variant or a modified eight-wheeled Stryker. These specially outfitted vehicles are designed to go into contaminated areas while keeping the crew inside safe. While in the potentially contaminated environment, multiple sensors and devices monitor and sample the area. These are devices that can sniff out the extent of the contamination. Findings are then communicated to the commanding officer.

Those on board are able to go without special protective gear because the interior of the vehicle is kept at a positive pressure, meaning if the seal around doors and other crevices aren’t quite airtight, the air pressure will make sure the flow of air is moving from inside to outside, thus pushing potentially dangerous contaminants away. To top it off, the M93 variant is fully amphibious.

But what if Guard Soldiers do have to leave the relative safety of the vehicle? That’s where the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST), together with the M40/M42 Series Field Protective Mask, are put to use.

Protecting a Soldier’s face, eyes, and lungs is the Field Protective Mask. A silicone rubber facepiece creates a natural seal against the face to protect the Soldier’s breathing and sight functions. It also features a voice meter to facilitate communication and a drink tube to maintain proper hydration. The mask provides protection for up to 12 hours and the detachable face-mounted canister will withstand up to 15 nerve-, choking-, and blistering-agent attacks or two blood-agent attacks.

The JSLIST provides similar protection for the body against chemical, biological, radiation, and other battlefield contaminants with a specialized material that incorporates activated carbon and a woven lining that absorbs chemical agents before they can get to the Soldier within the suit. Better yet, the JSLIST features great breathability which allows perspiration to escape. Combined with molded boot coverings and gloves, the JSLIST can be worn in a contaminated environment for up to 24 hours.

And finally, these Soldiers will need the Chemical Agent Detector Kit. Mechanics have their toolbox, carpenters have their tool belt, and a certain caped crusader has his utility belt. The Chemical Agent Detector Kit is the same deal, but for the HAZMAT set.

The Chemical Agent Detector Kit provides a variety of tools to determine the existence of blood-, blister- or nerve-agents in either liquid or aerosol form. While not an alarm, Guard Soldiers use the kit to determine if and when it is safe to unmask, the effectiveness of decontamination efforts, or the extent of present contamination.

So the next time you hear a news story about an area being evacuated, a train derailing, or an overturned tanker truck, think of those intrepid Soldiers who are driving toward the spill while everyone else is on their way out of town.

Or better yet, consider joining them and serve part-time in the defense of your community, State, and our Nation.

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