FORT BENNING, Ga. - Vickie Dikes climbed the ranks to command sergeant major during her 28-year Soldier career. Outside the Army, she's still knocking down obstacles.

Last summer, Dikes became just the second female commander of Samuel G. Cooke American Legion Post 267 in Columbus, the largest in Georgia with 2,327 members, including 120 who are Paid Up For Life. She supervises the post's officers, carries out programs and manages the organization's funds.

The Thomaston, Ga., native joined the post in 1995 and occupied various leadership positions along the way. She was elected to a one-year term in July but is eligible to run three more times.

"I realized that as commander I could fix some things that I didn't like and I could make a difference," she said. "I want to ensure that no veteran or his or her family is left behind. ... I want people to know what the American Legion is and what it does for our veterans."

But Dikes said the road was rocky at times, both in and out of the Army.

"It's been challenging," she said. "Some did not think that I could perform and some were not used to dealing with female leaders."

Dikes was in the Army from September 1976 to February 2004 and served in various noncommissioned officer leadership positions and assignments in the Adjutant General Corps.

She said she's glad to see a greater influx of women moving into positions of authority that have traditionally been held by men.

"I'd like to see more of it," she said, "and I'd encourage women to step out on faith. They have to believe they can do it. If they don't have the confidence in themselves, nobody else will."

For the past seven years, Dikes has worked as chief of the Quality Support Division at Fort Benning's Directorate of Human Resources.

She remains active in other veterans groups as well. Dikes is in her third year as president of the Retired Sergeants Major Association of Columbus and third year as vice president of the Adjutant General Regimental Association's Follow Me Chapter. She's also a member of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

Going forward, she said she remains steadfast and focused on the American Legion mission, too. She hopes to bring greater financial stability to the post, expand programs, get more veterans involved and engage in additional community service. Giving out more scholarships and removing the stigma that "it is only a party place" are among her other objectives, she said.

Dikes is the mother of two adult children, Tiresha and Rodrick, and has two grandchildren.