Age: 46
Current Unit: Headquarters Command Battalion, Fort Myer, Va.
Current Position: Command Sergeant Major
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Myer, Va.
Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica
Years of Service: 27

Command Sgt. Maj. Andrea R. Marks

Command Sgt. Maj. Andrea Marks believes that the Army changed her life. Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, she persevered through a difficult childhood, a good portion of which was spent without the most basic necessities.

She recalls that it was a bit of information shared with her by a high school classmate that led her to enlist. The friend told her that in the Army you "worked with people, wore a uniform and traveled," she said. Though a broad description, it was enough to encourage Command Sgt. Maj. Marks to look into the opportunity and ultimately sign a three-year contract.

Twenty-seven years later, she has developed a career in the Army she is proud of, all the while never forgetting that it was the words of a friend and mentor that set her on this course.

Perhaps inspired by the career-launching guidance she once received, Command Sgt. Maj. Marks has demonstrated a commitment to molding her own Soldiers throughout her time in the Army.

While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005 to 2006 as the first female to serve as Command Sergeant Major for the 1st Personnel Command Headquarters, she held many responsibilities, including the oversight of postal operations and management of a large team of service members and civilians.

Outside of these duties, Command Sgt. Maj. Marks applied her passion for mentorship to launch an innovative program to encourage her Soldiers to take advantage of opportunities for continuing education while deployed. Her "Command Sergeant Major Education Challenge" was a large success. In her company alone, 147 Soldiers participated in opportunities to earn college degrees or take language courses while serving in Iraq. Eleven of these participants were senior leaders who took courses to set an example for the Soldiers under their leadership.

Now at Fort Myer as the Headquarters Command Battalion sergeant major, she continues to tell her Soldiers that "You've got to read to lead." The advice is backed up by Command Sgt. Maj. Marks' own resume. She earned her associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees all while continuing her work as a full-time Soldier. Not surprisingly, she isn't one to accept excuses from others when it comes to achieving one's academic goals. She has even been known to drive her Soldiers to school when they did not have access to transportation.

Even as she cements her place as a role model for others, Command Sgt. Maj. Marks remains a mentee and continues to learn from and pay tribute to the leaders who helped mold her. While assigned to Headquarters Command Battalion, Fort Meade, Md., she presented the American Flag at Arlington National Cemetery to the niece of Command Sgt. Maj. Mildred C. Kelly (Ret.), who was the first African-American woman to achieve the rank in 1974. Command Sgt. Maj. Marks says she will always remember being a part of the ceremony for a woman who she describes as having "moved barricades and paved roads" for female Soldiers.