FORT STEWART, Ga. - Twenty-three years ago this month, Michelle Maxwell, a Macon native, enlisted into the Army as a Petroleum Supply Specialist. Currently, she is the first sergeant for 226th Quartermaster Company, 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, Third Infantry Division.

"I had some doubts about joining the Army," said 1st Sgt. Maxwell. "My brother told me I wouldn't make it through my initial contract because I couldn't take orders well."
That wasn't the only issue she encountered. In the early 1990's, the Army faced issues of racism and sexism.

"For females it was more the issue of fighting for equal rights," said 1st Sgt. Maxwell. "As African-American females we had even more to prove. It was a small struggle, but that only made me more determined."

When she enlisted in 1989, about 11 percent of active-duty personnel were female, and 26 percent were African American. In 2011, the active Army was 16.32 percent female, and only 19.8 percent African American.

"It's great for me; it sets a tone for the future," said 1st Sgt. Maxwell. "The young Soldiers will look up and see African American females and say 'hey I one day want to be like her'."

She said her greatest accomplishment was when she was an instructor at Fort Lee, Va., because it allowed her the opportunity to inspire new Soldiers and give them a great person to look up to.

"I can sit them down and say, 'I, too, was just like you. I was a little girl not knowing what to do with my life.' The Army opens so many doors," said 1st Sgt. Maxwell. "Anything is possible; you just have to put your best foot forward."

As a leader, 1st Sgt. Maxwell said she cares about all of her Soldiers.

"You always have to be cognitive of how someone else is going to view (the decisions you make)," she said. "I just continue to be me, I don't change. I lead the way I've always led."
She always looks out for her Soldiers and has the best intentions for both her Soldiers and Seniors alike.

"My Seniors see me as a leader who can get things done," said 1st Sgt. Maxwell. "I hold my Soldiers to the standard and put their feet to the fire when it's not."

She has been through a lot of different experiences and can advise Soldiers when they seek it.
"When Soldiers come into my office I tell them I once was in your shoes," said 1st Sgt. Maxwell.

"You have to dig deep within and set personal goals to pursue the things you desire."