FORT KNOX, Ky. – She has served in the U.S. Army for over 32 years as an enlisted Soldier, officer, and trailblazer. This leader makes a difference every day, succeeding because of the opportunities the Army offered her. She is also passionate about mentoring and giving time to the Soldiers who want to follow in her footsteps.
Col. Clydea Prichard-Brown, chief of staff, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, brings a wealth of knowledge, leadership, and mentoring experience to the 1st TSC, along with her presence as one of the first female senior leaders in the command group.
She originally joined the Army along with her twin sister, Army Lt. Col. (promotable) Clydellia Prichard-Allen, to finish paying for college. “Our Single mother, Betty K. Prichard, could no longer afford to send us to school after our third year of college, so we determined that the Army was going to be the means to help us finish,” Prichard-Brown said.
Unlike her twin, who first became a reserve Soldier, the future chief of staff enlisted to serve on active duty as a traffic management coordinator in 1991. After reaching the rank of sergeant, she entered the Green to Gold program at Indiana University, Purdue University of Indianapolis, where she was the first female and first minority cadet battalion commander in 1997. Prichard-Brown became the school’s distinguished military graduate and commissioned as a transportation officer. She is also a proud member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
“I not only attained my undergraduate degree in general studies with a concentration in criminal justice, but I went on to earn two master’s degrees; one in procurement and acquisition management with a concentration in government contracting, and the second in strategic studies – all while serving in the Army,” she said.
With women comprising 19% of the Force, there were times when Prichard-Brown was the only female leader during her career. She was the sole female officer on the brigade staff with 12 male officers at the 164th Theater Airfield Operation Group, with whom she deployed to Iraq.
She was the only female battalion commander out of 19 commanders within the U.S. Army Japan, where she became the first Black woman to command the 836th Transportation Battalion.
“In both instances, I was the only voice for both commissioned and enlisted women who fought for diversity of opportunities for women in our unit,” she said.
“I often provided first-hand experience and insight on how policies and programs did not address, or consider, the impact on the quality of life for the different roles and responsibilities women held,” she explained.
“Providing that insight to my leadership, allowed them to gain a different perspective on how the climate of the organization could have a negative impact on the welfare of the women within the unit,” Prichard-Brown explained.
She has been the first female or first minority in many areas and is honored to have broken barriers. This success inspires her to help others. “I feel it has been my duty to provide women the encouragement, mentorship and guidance needed to navigate their military careers,” the colonel added.
“It is crucial that we have women as senior leaders because representation matters! Women must see other women who have succeeded in their career field to know that they, too, can succeed at whatever they choose,” she said.
Adding to her list of firsts, Prichard-Brown became the first African American woman to command the 59th Ordnance Brigade at Fort Gregg-Adams, Virginia. This is where she founded the Female Mentoring and Morale Program.
The FMMP is an all-inclusive, Secretary of the Army endorsed platform in support of the “People First” strategy that provides personal and professional development to male and female service members and civilians with a focus on empowering Department of the Army women in and out of uniform.
As the founder and executive board director for the program, she’s helped many units start their own chapters of the FMMP. The chief of staff is currently leading another group of trailblazers to launch a chapter with the 1st TSC at Fort Knox.
Sgt. Maj. Hilaria Taylor, G-4 senior enlisted advisor, 1st TSC, has been helping launch the FMMP. She appreciates having Prichard-Brown’s leadership and what she does to help service members in their Army journeys. Taylor describes the chief of staff as “a breath of fresh air.”
“With women as a minority in the Army, it’s truly inspirational to see a strong woman like Col. Prichard-Brown be so successful and have such passion for her profession,” Taylor said. “She also brings a different energy and perspective to the staff and provides balance.”
The chief of staff knows it is also very important to have women as senior leaders. “We offer a different perspective of mission support, legal and administration analysis of issues, and a more nurturing environment where Soldiers are not afraid to be vulnerable if they believe the woman leading them leads more with compassion,” she explained from experience.
To her male counterparts - she is equal.
To Prichard-Brown, being equal means being afforded equal opportunities and access to resources, regardless of gender or past stereotypes, roles or gender assignments placed on us by society. “It is also the recognition, acknowledgment, and appreciation of our contributions to our communities and society,” she stated.
She encourages women to work to achieve their “seat at the table.”
In 1920 the passing of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution helped American women achieve more equal rights by granting all women the right to vote in elections. Voting gave them more decision-making powers in their communities, allowing women’s voices to be heard.
“Women fought for our right to vote! We must honor those who came up against scrutiny and toxic backlash as a result of demanding their right to be treated as equally important on community decisions,” Prichard-Brown asserted. “Voting is our very first “seat at the table.”
Prichard-Brown urges Soldiers to exercise that right. “Voting empowers us to address and decide on the resolutions to difficult topics that impact our lives and the lives of generations after us,” she said.
“Take advantage of every opportunity to exercise your right to vote to affect needed changes in policies and programs for military and civilian women, as well as laws and policies within our communities. It is imperative that women vote because voting allows us to shape the outcome of politics and community decisions,” she encouraged.
Prichard-Brown is also passionate about providing a safe environment for women to freely express challenges they are experiencing as well as seek the mentorship, guidance, and encouragement to excel in their careers.
“Not only am I passionate about providing that safe environment, but I am also passionate about providing the assistance and support needed to address the challenges they are facing,” she said.
She can hold their leadership responsible for finding resolutions to their issues rather than turning a blind eye to any continued harmful behaviors.
Just as the colonel advanced in her career, she encourages women to join the Army where they can develop the strength, courage, and leadership skills needed to lead and manage people.
“Soldiers learn skillsets that companies and corporations look for in their employees - making them more marketable after service,” she said. “Women should join the Army to develop the skillsets to flourish in any environment and the courage needed to stand their ground.”
The colonel described some traits that military women learn. “We learn how to become part of a team and the importance of working together to accomplish the overall mission, operation, or task of an organization. We experience training that focuses on discipline and rigid routines that tests our willpower and leadership abilities,” she described.
“Military women must also learn to balance military training and operational requirements that will help us identify our strengths and weaknesses as leaders in order to advance to the next rank. We transition to new roles every two to three years, learning to become part of new team on a continuous basis.
“This teaches us to be resilient and develop coping skills needed to adjust to new personalities within new environments with every new duty station,” she explained.
It takes work getting promoted. As military women learn to lead and manage people as they advance in their careers, they also face promotion timelines and mandatory education requirements. Whereas their civilian counterparts are afforded opportunities to volunteer to attend education programs.
She is also committed to helping women address and confront instances of unfairness, inappropriate comments and behaviors, and challenges with balancing home life with work life.
“I have experience being a married Soldier and parent, a divorced single mother for eight years, and a Soldier who remarried and created a blended family,” she said.
“Women from all backgrounds and races have, or will experience, one or all these instances some time in their careers or know someone who will. Therefore, my journey may help encourage, empower, and motivate them through rough times and provide that blueprint on how to successfully navigate through each situation.
“I also find that paving the way for women also impacts the lives of the men in my organization. I have a responsibility to show women how to be professional, approachable, firm and fair, and courageous in the face of fear and uncertainty.
“More importantly, I believe it is also important that I continue to set a good example for male Soldiers and leaders to see a strong female Soldier who is a confident and self-assured teammate. As a leader, I must be a role model to women who will encounter many issues and challenges that may cause them to want to leave the military.
“As a role model, I must also be that leader who holds other leaders accountable and responsible for their actions to prevent them from causing the Army to lose its talent due to lack of care and concern.
There is added pressure to ensure that she always provides a positive image that is real and transparent with her teammates, so that they see a caring leader who is just as human as they are.
“I have the pressure of being a subject matter expert to gain the respect and support of my leadership and peers to ensure I am value added to the overall mission, but more importantly, I must be the champion for women to ensure leaders understand and know how to improve the quality of life for women within their organizations.”
Lastly, “I am passionate about ensuring women have the same opportunities to excel in the Army as our counterparts and are treated with dignity and respect in every environment.”
She splits her free time between enjoying quality time with her husband and family and being the managing director of the FMMP.
Professionally, Prichard-Brown wants to continue being an asset to whichever organization she is a member, by continuing to be that subject matter expert who enhances the mission. “Personally, my goal is to continue establishing FMMP chapters throughout military and civilian organizations to ensure Army senior leaders provide a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for women both in and out of uniform,” she said.