By Kari HawkinsSeptember 18, 2017
1st Sgt. Lachelle Wiggins keeps an insignia in the drawer of her coin stand that she aspires to wear someday on her uniform.
It is the insignia of a command sergeant major, given to her by retired Command Sgt. Maj. Angel Clark.
"It's a symbol of people who have paved the way for you to move forward. She has definitely strived to pay it forward and she's still giving back," Wiggins said of Clark, who today works in Executive Services at the Army Materiel Command.
Clark is one of several mentors and role models who have encouraged Wiggins in a career that has nearly paralleled the acceptance of women in increasingly expanded roles in the military. As a supply sergeant, Wiggins was the first female in the 1/16 Cavalry Regiment Fort Knox, Kentucky to earn the unit's coveted spurs.
Today, Wiggins is the first female first sergeant to lead Headquarters and Headquarters Co., Aviation and Missile Command, and the first female first sergeant of an active duty component to win the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award presented by the Redstone/Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
"There's still a lot of firsts for us. The Army has done a great job integrating women in all the military occupational specialties. We have definitely made great strides. I'm excited to see younger female Soldiers getting the opportunities," Wiggins said.
"But I didn't do anything special. I took a risk and it paid off. The Army has been good to me."
Wiggins came to Redstone Arsenal about 1 1/2 years ago to work for Army Contracting Command Logistics (G-4) while her husband - Command Sgt. Maj. Jerome Wiggins - became the command sergeant major for the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.
As the HHC AMCOM first sergeant, Wiggins assists in supporting over 600 Soldiers with administrative, medical and other Human Resource needs.
"The number one priority is readiness, so whatever we can do to make sure of that and make sure the senior leaders can focus on their mission we will try to meet those lines of effort," Wiggins said.
She also assists with Soldier programs, such as co-chairing Redstone's Army Emergency Relief program.
A native of Canton, Ohio, Wiggins enlisted in December 1998 under the Delayed Entry Program as an Army Reserve Soldier assigned to 2nd Psychological Operations, Parma, Ohio.
"I wasn't ready for college. All I wanted to do was be a runner. No one wanted me to join the military, so I did. I wanted to do my own thing. It was the best decision I ever made, and my family couldn't be more proud," Wiggins said.
She entered active duty in June 2000, attending basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and advance individual training in unit supply at Fort Lee, Virginia.
"A unit supply specialist is primarily responsible for supervisor or performing tasks involving the general upkeep and maintenance of all Army supplies and equipment," Wiggins ssaid. "It's the kind of MOS that gives you the opportunity to work with all kinds of different units."
Her first assignment was with the Headquarters Command, Fort Stewart, Georgia; and then she went on to support the 2nd Forward Support Battalion, Camp Hovey, Korea.
"Korea was perfect for me. We trained as long and hard as we wanted to. That was where I really learned what it means to be a Soldier," Wiggins said.
At Fort Knox with the 1/16 Cavalry Regiment, Wiggins' capabilities as a female Soldier were put to the test.
"The Army was just starting to integrate females in the squadron. It was a male dominant unit. I did everything the unit did. I went to the field and trained with them," she said.
Including "earning her spurs," which involved three days of Soldier challenges, including battle drills, physical fitness tests and gas chamber drills. It was a right of passage that she earned just like her male counterparts.
She went on to serve with the Garrison at Franconia Wurzburg, Germany; and then with the 1/40th Field Artillery Brigade and the 1/56 Air Defense Artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. It was while at Fort Sill that Wiggins met her husband, who was serving as an Air Defense Artillery regimental sergeant major.
"He is a great guy and an awesome asset for me as I continue to learn and grow into being a better Soldier and leader," Wiggins said. "He is truly a blessing to me. He is supportive, but he won't give me the answers."
Fort Sill is also where she served as a drill sergeant, a job that was both extremely rewarding and challenging.
"It was an opportunity to get 60 brand new recruits and have a nine-week process to convert them from civilian to Soldier," she said. "During the first two cycles, I had all males, 60 men all looking at me from different walks of life. It was real time resiliency training for me. At the same time, many were carrying on family traditions. There was a lot of pride in the units."
Assignments at U.S. Forces Korea and then the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade at Joint Base Fort Sam Houston, Texas, led Wiggins and her husband to Redstone Arsenal. It was at Redstone that Wiggins met Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Counts, who submitted her for the John Ordway leadership award.
"We have developed a great professional relationship while serving in this unique environment where we don't have Soldier formations and there is a wide variety of Soldier ranks, and Soldiers assigned to all different commands and units," she said.
Wiggins ensures her office is a resource to Soldiers. And, she looks for opportunities to provide support.
"To make a difference here, I have to get out from behind my desk and go out to the Soldiers," she said.
"It's more about helping Soldiers on a one-on-one basis rather than working with them through a unit. There's a lot of opportunity here to coach and mentor and develop the younger Soldiers as well as to support the more senior officers. This is still the regular Army, just a different dynamic."
Wiggins remains committed to pursuing her Army career to its fullest.
"Loyalty to your Soldiers, loyalty to the Army, you can accomplish anything when you are a team working together. If you are loyal to your Soldiers, they will be loyal to you, and they will make it possible to achieve, even if they are tired or it's painful," Wiggins said.
"That's the kind of organization I am proud to be associated with. The discipline, maturity and mental toughness that you develop in this job you can't get anywhere else and it will take you far in any career."