Being a part of an organization like the U.S. Army that is almost 250 years old it isn't easy to be the first at many things. Many have come before you and many will come after you so leaving a mark in U.S. Army history is no easy feat.
Command Sgt. Maj. Heather Smith a native of Brick, N.J. is the Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. for 3rd Battalion 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Fort Bragg, NC. Smith is the first female to be chosen as the Command Sgt. Maj. for 3-4 ADAR and also the very first U.S. Army Forces Command, Command Sgt. Maj. in the Air Defense Artillery Branch.
Smith enlisted in the Army on Nov. 16, 1993 as a 24T- PATRIOT Operator and Systems Mechanic which is now referred to as a 14E. "The Gulf War was still fresh in my memory and I thought that the job of a 24T sounded exciting so I chose it," said Smith.
When asked to reflect on some of the obstacles met along the way in her career Smith said, "Having to deploy while my son was six months old, my introduction to Field Artillery and Infantry in the Warriors Leaders Course, which was also my first experience with a gender bias peer group and overall gender bias leadership."
Smith owes a great deal of her professional development to some mentors like Col. Liz Smith, Command Sgt. Maj. James Ross, Luther Harris, Finis Dodson, Henry Bacon, Kevin McGovern and 1st Sgt. Charles E. Williams. Smith cites her personal heroes as "All my troopers that surpass their own expectations utilizing the opportunities the Army provides. It?'s a good life if you apply it correctly."
When asked about making the Command Sgt. Maj. list, thus making history in the process Smith replied "I was excited but intimidated by the proud alumni of 3-4 ADAR and its history. So intimidated that I went to Airborne school so that I would not be the first "leg" Command Sgt. Maj.
With the U.S. Army Field Artillery branch just now opening up over 30,000 new jobs to females the Air Defense Artillery branch has allowed women to serve side by side with their male counterparts for over 30 years now. When asked about this Smith replied, "I think it's great that all MOS' will be open to women in the future, this doesn't mean that I want to be an Field Artillery NCO but some women may. I always wanted to be a 14R and operate a Bradley, too bad that is no longer available.
When asked about some of her personal goals she has set and wanted to accomplish in the Army, "I have surpassed every goal I ever had, I joined the Army for structure and like most, my family was dysfunctional and I needed a way out. I wanted to be a Platoon Sergeant, that was it and I did the best I could and this is where I wound up."
When asked about some of her best memories she has had in the Army, "My best memory so far in my career has been my promotion to Sergeant and my first jump out of an airplane, both were equally exhilarating!"
When asked if she had any advice or words for women either wanting to join the military or already serving Smith said," Consider how you want to be remembered and then make decisions and act accordingly, don't let being a woman affect the way you handle your role as a leader, be a Leader."
Command Sgt. Maj. Smith's battalion 3-4 ADAR recently assumed mission in the CENTCOM AOR and they are providing crucial air defense to critical assets within the theater.