As you summit the stairs in the 615th Aviation Support Battalion’s hangar, you are likely to hear laughter and a piece of wise advice or a constructive correction being offered, leading you to the office of Charlie Company’s senior Non-Commissioned Officer – 1st Sgt. Maira McCoy.
McCoy was born in California to immigrant parents from Mexico. When she was in the 4th grade, her family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where they still call home.
“[In my family], just graduating high school was an achievement,” McCoy said. “I didn’t know how to get into college. Without knowing what I was doing, I decided to join the Army to try to better my future.”
McCoy enlisted at 17 and left for Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. “It was the first time I had left my family, so even though this was what I wanted, because I knew it was going to be better for me, it was really hard.”
She had no idea what to expect when she showed up to basic training. She said she took it day-by-day and tried to learn as much as she could as quickly as she could.
After basic training, she went to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to learn the job skills needed to be a 31U, Signal Support System Specialist (now a 25U) then off to Fort Bliss, Texas for her first assignment.
“Having young soldiers now, I think about when I was in their shoes, and I don't think I realized how much I still had to learn until I left my first duty assignment,” she explained. “Until then, everything was still so new. It wasn’t until I got to my next duty station, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, that it all really came together for me.”
McCoy spent the next nine years primarily at Fort Sill. She held positions at brigade, deployed multiple times, served as a platoon sergeant, became a drill sergeant and also welcomed her first child. She said being close to home and having her family’s support are what made her successful as a single mother in the Army.
Figuring out how to balance career and family is a challenge for any parent in the military. “I think sometimes we lose a lot of great soldiers due to having to create a balance between motherhood and being a Soldier is so challenging,” McCoy said.
“I made the choice to stay in because I was lucky enough to have the support of my family,” she continued. “I can't thank them enough for that; they allowed me to have a better career in the Army.”
While at Fort Sill, McCoy met her husband, now a Master Sgt. and 74D Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialist. After enrolling in the Married Army Couples Program, they moved together to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where they welcomed another daughter into their family.
McCoy celebrates the Army for how many helpful programs have since been implemented for parents in the military, and especially for mothers. “When I was pregnant the second time, I felt much more supported,” she said. “I appreciate that so many struggles I had the first time have been fixed, which now allows women to be able to enjoy motherhood and pregnancy while still doing their part as a Soldier.”
Her oldest daughter, Alexia, is now 15 years old and Tatiana is three. “Dual military and parenting are hard. We couldn't do it without Alexia,” raved McCoy. “She's a big help, especially now with me being [deployed to Europe].”
McCoy strives to be a good role model for her daughters and for her Soldiers. She said she feels empowered being a First Sergeant and female Soldier.
“I think it definitely shows that women are capable of military service just like our male counterparts,” she said. “Is it a little bit more challenging? Yes. But we can do just as much as they can, we just have to put our minds to it.
“There are a lot of women who did the work to allow us to get to where we are,” she said. “My goal is to continue to bridge that gap so those that come after us can have an even better Army. Our young female Soldiers just need someone to validate that they belong, that they are here for a reason, and that they have a purpose and a role as women in a male-dominated profession.”
McCoy continues to be an example of professionalism, compassion, determination, and dedication to everyone around her. She says although she isn’t perfect, she’s found her passion and purpose in balancing motherhood, marriage, and her mission in the Army.
“It’s been tough but I can’t imagine had I not made the effort to make it all work for me,” McCoy said. “I don't know where I'd be. I've done this for so long. This is all I know, and I love it.”