BAGHDAD, Iraq - Four weeks to the day after the inauguration of American's first black president, the Louisiana National Guard promoted its first black officer to the rank of brigadier general.Owen Monconduit, the commander of the 225th Engineer Brigade, received his first star during a ceremony on Camp Liberty, Iraq, Feb. 17."This honor is bigger than me," Monconduit, of Pineville, La., said. "Many great Soldiers have come before me to allow this event to take place today, and many more will follow."February is Black History Month, a time to remember the many great blacks that paved the way for equal opportunity for all."I am proud of the National Guard, Louisiana and our country for the progression of equal opportunity for all races and genders. The first bill President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Louisiana just elected the first Vietnamese U.S. Representative, Anh Cao, and last year the first governor of Indian decent, Gov. Bobby Jindal. This is a sign of our times, moving forward on equal ground."Monconduit graduated from Louisiana State University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Engineer Technology, from the University of Phoenix in 1998 with a Master of Arts in organizational management and from the United States Army War College in 2007 with a master's in strategic studies.During his 28-year career, Monconduit served as a platoon leader, company executive officer and as a company and battalion commander with the 225th Eng. Bde. He became the chief of the environment management section for the Louisiana National Guard in 1991, where he served before becoming the Construction Management and Facilities officer in 2000. Before accepting command of the engineer brigade in 2007, Monconduit served as the executive officer to the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau."The National Guard is a great organization - it's a value-based organization and it certainly expresses equality and has many opportunities available for any young person that is interested in the military," Monconduit said. "It's a humbling experience to achieve your dreams. But through perseverance and hard work, it pays off."A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he commanded the 528th Engineer Battalion from Monroe, La., through a year-long tour to Afghanistan in 2005 before leading a battalion for six months on state-active duty for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.Monconduit's wife, Anges Chenevert, and Maj. Gen. Landreneau viewed the promotion via video teleconferencing from Louisiana to Baghdad."Most importantly, he leads in the direction of taking care of Soldiers. Because of that, he has earned the respect of the Soldier and NCO corps he leads," Landreneau said. "Owen's a great Soldier, a great patriot, very dedicated to his Soldiers and a great leader."Monconduit's awards include: the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Superior Unit Award, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and the Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon.The 225th Engineer Brigade from Pineville, La., officially unveiled their unit colors as the provincial engineers in Baghdad, Feb. 9, after replacing the 926th Engineer Brigade from Montgomery, Ala.