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.

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

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