CAMP HENRY, Daegu, Korea - When people meet Pfc. Alexis S. Payton, they meet a cheerful and friendly individual. A young woman, full of life and charisma, who was recently named the recipient of the Division Commander's Green to Gold Hip-Pocket Scholarship. However, if one gets to really know her, you will find out that she's had to travel a tough road to get to where she's at.
Following the Area IV Women's History Month Observance, held at the Camp Henry Theater, March 23. Brig. Gen. Michel M. Russell Sr., commanding general of the 19th ESC, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Maurice V. Chaplin, the ESC's senior enlisted advisor, presented Payton with the Green to Gold Hip-Pocket Scholarship.
According to the goarmy.com Website, the Army ROTC Green to Gold Division Commander's Hip Pocket Scholarship Program provides selected Soldiers the opportunity to complete their baccalaureate degree requirements and obtain a commission through participation in the ROTC Scholarship program. Each year, division commanders may nominate deserving Soldiers for two, three, and four-year Green to Gold scholarships.
"I think it's surreal and ironic that this is happening to me," she said. "When I was in Advanced Individual Training, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about our future and what it would take to stay in the Army for a long time. We specifically talked about the possibility of going Green to Gold."
Payton, who's originally from Cleveland, Ohio is currently assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Camp Henry, as a signal support systems specialist. She arrived at the unit in October of 2017.
A few months after being assigned to the 19th ESC, Payton was approached by her section sergeant major about the possibility of going Green to Gold. Upon hearing that, she quickly said yes.
"Alexis possesses qualities that only can be admired and seen as a real blessing," said Sgt. Maj. Kenya Dugger, the chief signal Noncommissioned Officer with HHC, 19th ESC also, originally from San Diego, California. "Her ability to take charge in the absence of orders and direction is remarkable and indeed is not typical for someone at her age. She knew immediately upon entrance to the Army that she would be the best Soldier possible and will always strive for perfection through self-reflection."
Despite not having the required Army, General Technical score required to apply for the Green to Gold Scholarship Program when she was first nominated, she dedicated all her personal time to studying for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
After failing to achieve the needed score on her first attempt, Payton worked extra hard to making it on her second try and thereby being eligible to go before the board, which ultimately recommended her to be awarded the scholarship.
"I am truly grateful for this opportunity," she said. "I am also extremely thankful for all the people who have invested their time in me and helped me through this process here at the 19th ESC. There are too many people to name each of them but, I do want all of them to know that I am forever indebted to them and that I hope to make them all proud of me."
When Payton graduates from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida, in 2022, she will be the first in her family to have graduated from college. Despite both her mom and dad having taken college classes, neither of them ended up graduating. She is the eldest of five in her family.
"I originally wanted to go to Howard University in Washington D.C.," said Payton. "However, because I couldn't meet their entry requirements, I ended up choosing FAMU as they were more accommodating with their entry requirements."
"I am majoring in computer science," she said. "Upon becoming an Army commissioned officer, I plan to go into the Signal Branch and eventually, I would like to work in the newest Army command, Cyber command."
Payton joined the Army in February of 2017. She attended and graduated from the Army Basic Combat Training course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in May of 2017. Next, she went to Advance Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where she graduated from Military Occupational Specialty 25U, Signal Support Systems Specialist, in September of 2017.
Growing up, Payton explained that she moved around a lot. In 2011, her mom moved the family to the state of Georgia, following her sophomore year of high school.
After graduating from high school, Payton applied to Spelman College, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Spelman is an all women school, a historically black college. Despite being accepted into the college, she ended up not going due to lack of financial support.
Soon after she found out that she wasn't able to attend college, she decided to get a job and help out her mom and her siblings. Later in 2013, she decided to join the military, she chose the Navy. However, after going through the entry process, she was disqualified because of a medical issue. To add to her misfortune, her older brother died, on his 20th birthday, towards the end of 2013.
Following all these setbacks, she continued working to help out her family. In 2015, she decided to try her luck at joining the Air Force. After going through the entry process, unfortunately, as was the case with the Navy, she was again disqualified because of the same medical issue the Navy had disqualified her for, in 2014.
Then finally, in 2016, she decided to give the military one more try. This time she chose the Army. The Army accepted her but not without first putting her through the same rigorous entry process she had already been through with both the Navy and Air Force.
"I think that God had this planned for me all along," explained Payton. "From not being able to attend Spelman, working numerous jobs to help my family, to all challenges I had to overcome, and through it all, I remained resilient. Being given this opportunity, it's an amazing feeling, one that I find hard to explain."
"Regardless of where you come from and whatever challenges you've faced, remain focused, motivated, and committed because hard work pays off," concluded Payton.