NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- New Jersey Army National Guard Sgt. Stephanie Hoang grew up as the tomboy of her family, she says, surrounded by male family members who talked about joining the Army. In 2011, as a freshman in college, she saw the free education benefits the New Jersey Guard offers, and decided to join.
After becoming a recruiter in 2017, she not only recruited her brother into the National Guard, but also two male cousins. By 2019, Hoang was named New Jersey's Top Recruiter.
"Winning Top Recruiter in 2019 really meant a lot to me, I'm the only female in my family that joined and I felt like I had to prove myself being a woman in the Army," said Hoang. "I don't sell the National Guard, I sell my story. The National Guard helped me build those relationships, helped me experience things I never thought I would be able to experience."
Hoang is especially excited about combat specialties being opened to women.
"We've recruited females into Field Artillery, and we're selling that. It's becoming a norm now. Females are being more looked at as peers than previous generations."
She believes that these new jobs offer unique opportunities to women who want to serve.
"Every day, you want to be the better you than you were yesterday," said Hoang. "You know, this is a challenge for you, manage to push yourself."
When Hoang isn't recruiting, she's painting and drawing characters and murals, including artwork on the walls inside the ROTC building at Rutgers.
"I love art," said Hoang. "Art has been pretty prominent in my life. I started drawing and painting when I was young, and I've kept it with me. I deployed in 2014 and I did a lot of paintings. It's a peaceful state of mind for me. I paint people and characters. It's been pretty prominent in my life."
Hoang reflected on her service, and reasons for joining the Guard.
"I joined for the free tuition, I joined for the educational benefits, but I stay for the experience and the relationships that I've built here," said Huong.
"Now, I've done things that I didn't think I'd be able to do, I've pushed myself a lot more than I thought I would be able to, and it's really helped me become a better person, especially being in the Guard."