JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Like many young people, LaToya Sizer joined the U.S. Army to broaden her career opportunities.
At 22, a high school graduate with a few years of clerical work experience and a few college credits, she longed for an occupation more exciting than what she had experienced growing up in East St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois. No doubt she never dreamed that someday she would head the Army’s top training center for installation management and carry the title chief of institutional training at the U.S. Army
IMCOM delivers expertise to 80 garrisons worldwide with its diverse range of core competencies: provide Soldier and Family services, manage the regular Army’s infrastructure, enhance readiness and deployability, and provide and integrate base operations. The IMCOM Training Center, at IMCOM headquarters, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hosts an array of programming for Soldiers and civilians, and is known variously as “the academy,” “the College of Institutional Management” or “the CIM,” the “ITC” and “the schoolhouse” – names representing the training center’s growth and expansion through the years.
Served as Soldier, civilian and veteran
Sizer’s service as a Soldier, Army civilian and veteran is a tale worth telling anytime, but especially in March during the national observance of Women’s History Month, which has the theme “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
Her story of Army service exemplifies the dedication of those who make the Army stronger. As the daughter of a single, teenage mother who worked full time, Sizer was raised by her grandmother, who also took in Sizer’s two brothers.
“I grew up in a strict religion. Going to church six days a week – that was my life.”
As role models, Sizer cites her 94-year-old grandmother, who has 23 grandchildren now. “My grandmother grew up in Mississippi. She didn’t go to school; she learned to read and write on her own,” Sizer said. “She cared for people. If you needed a place to stay or a meal, she was the person who would help you. And my mother is one of the strongest women I know. Because of her work ethic, I knew I wanted more out of life.”
Sizer loved school and was a spelling bee winner, as well as an athlete. She attended Lincoln High School in East St. Louis, Illinois, and ran track with Jackie Joyner-Kersee. At 14 her family moved to Springfield, Illinois. Going from a predominantly Black community in East St. Louis to Springfield, where Sizer was a minority in high school at the time, was an adjustment she made well, she said.
However, teachers weren’t very encouraging. During a 10th grade career day, Sizer expressed her hopes of becoming a pediatrician.
“That will never happen,” the teacher told her flatly, saying that as a child of a single mother she wouldn’t have the financial resources to afford medical school. “That really crushed me,” Sizer said. “But after I continued high school, his words were my reality, and I believed him. He broke my spirit and dream.”
Because she was enrolled in a high school program that enabled her to attend class half-days and work half-days, Sizer gained some clerical skills and worked full time for a few years after graduation. “But I didn’t see much of a future in Springfield,” she said. Sizer wanted more and shared her hopes with her then-boyfriend, an Army recruiter. He connected her with a fellow recruiter who showed her the positions open to women at the time and suggested she pursue a job as a truck driver.
“I was a girly girl. Truck driving was not in my DNA, so I asked to see all the positions,” Sizer said. “When I looked at the list of occupations, I thought journalism and public affairs sounded interesting, because I always loved to read and write,” Sizer said. “I signed up, told my boss I was joining the Army, and two weeks later, I was in basic training at Fort Dix.”
Describing herself as competitive by nature, Sizer said she figured she would give the Army a chance. She had no problem passing the physical or fitness test, but at 22, she was one of the older recruits. She was made a squad leader quickly and enjoyed learning about the Army and meeting people from all over the world.
“I was always disciplined, and my level of tolerance was strong. My self-esteem increased in the Army. Becoming a Soldier ended up being the best thing I could have done for myself.”
Sizer spent 22 years in the Army, traveled the world and met and interviewed thousands of interesting people.
“I’m one of the fortunate ones. I enjoyed every place the Army sent me,” she said.
In 1988, she was sent to Seoul, South Korea, to cover the Summer Olympics. It was her first time out of the United States.
“I never imagined in my life that I would be at the Olympics, watching Florence Griffith Joyner and many other athletes compete,” Sizer said.
Attending the Olympics was an exciting time for Sizer, but living in a foreign country was a defining moment.
“It really humbled me, to see how other people lived, in Korea. We visited orphanages and got to connect with the Korean people,” she added. “It made me appreciate being an American – we have the best of everything. It taught me a lot about life.”
In 1991, she married her husband, Richard, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Thirty-two years later, they have two sons, ages 28 and 24, both engineers by trade, and chefs in their spare time.
Mentors delivered consistent message
Throughout Sizer’s Army career, she was mentored and sponsored by some of the best and brightest. Those who influenced her delivered a consistent message: Get your education, work a variety of assignments, and always exceed the standard. She listened.
Sizer earned an associate’s degree early in her career and retired with a master’s. Those credentials helped her reach the highest enlisted rank in her field, Command Sergeant Major.
In 2001, Sizer served as the 1st Corps and Fort Lewis Public Affairs Sergeant Major in Washington. A few years later, she became the first CSM in Army public affairs history of the American Forces Network Europe. She was also the first woman, first African American and first print journalist to hold that position.
After she and her husband retired from the Army together on the same day, the Sizer family moved to San Antonio in 2009, took a year off from work, then Sizer found employment at IMCOM as a public affairs supervisor.
Sizer volunteered for the IMCOM Strategic Communication team and served on it for five years. In 2015 she moved to the IMCOM Academy, offering graduate-level, command-directed courses and programs in garrison leadership, such as the Senior Commander Course, Garrison Pre-command Course for commanders and CSM’s selected to command garrisons. The training center curriculum also emphasizes customer service, specifically IMCOM’s Service Culture Campaign, and installation management, since serving as a garrison commander is in essence like running a city, providing a wide range of services.
Sizer was named director of the School of Installation Management in 2015 and chief of institutional training for IMCOM in 2019. Her love for academics stemmed from teaching journalism and public affairs at the Department of Defense Information School and serving as its first sergeant for hundreds of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians.
After earning advanced degrees from Trident University – an MBA in human resources management and services in 2007, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and administration in 2018 – she became known as “Dr. Toya” around IMCOM, where her warm smile and outgoing personality welcome everyone.
“I love IMCOM’s mission and working with the garrisons,” she said. “No other organization in the world touches the lives of every Soldier, civilian and their families every day, everywhere, like we do."
Being in the IMCOM academic environment is her passion, Sizer said, and another reason she is a school board trustee for the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District.
People also are Sizer’s passion, she said, and is quick to credit her institutional training team as “reliable and amazing.”
“When it comes to getting everyone on board, we are a group; we get it done,” she said. “My job is to serve people, be a resource. When we provide great customer service to those we serve, and see the fruits of our labor, that’s the most rewarding. IMCOM is the Army’s home, and our team is a family. I love all of them and what they do for Soldiers and families all day, every day.”
Military service gave Sizer the opportunities she sought to pursue her passions and purpose. Now there are more than 200 career fields open to Soldiers. Women currently make up 19 percent of the total Army and 35 percent of the Army’s civilian workforce, 2 percent of PhD’s, and less than 1 percent of Army Command Sergeants Major.