First Sgt. Stefanie Goins receives the Sword of the Noncommissioned Officer during a Change of Responsibility ceremony
First Sgt. Stefanie Goins receives the Sword of the Noncommissioned Officer during a Change of Responsibility ceremony at the Niantic Readiness Center, Oct. 14, 2017. Taking the sword symbolizes her taking over as the senior enlisted leader for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 192nd Military Police Battalion, 85th Troop Command, Connecticut Army National Guard. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

As Connecticut Army National Guard Soldiers look back on 2018, the Connecticut Army National Guard quietly celebrated some historic milestones.

In November, Sgt. 1st Class LaSonya Jones became the first African-American female to be appointed as a Unit Readiness NCO in the Connecticut Army National Guard’s 192nd Engineer Battalion. She is a battle tested and a highly-decorated NCO who has served on two combat tours.

Yet her story is a familiar one. “In 2002 I was on a bad path and I needed a change in my life,” Jones said. “I lacked discipline and I hoped I could obtain it by joining the military. I had no intention of making this a long term goal, Sixteen years later, I look back at all the wonderful mentors and leaders that helped me grow as a person and a Soldier.

“I consider myself blessed to be part of the CTARNG. What was ingrained in me by this organization and its leadership on day one, has manifested into me becoming the first African American female Readiness NCO in the CTARNG. Hopefully, I am, and will continue to be, an aspiration to those in this organization who struggles with finding their calling. I will always try to set the example for others to emulate.”

Sgt. 1st Class Jones will be assigned to the battalion’s Alpha Company upon her return from her military education, and will look to proudly lead her unit while providing full time support to her commander.

The 192nd Military Police, a unit that traces its history back to the Revolutionary War, recently appointed its first African-American female, 1st Sgt. Stefanie Goins. Goins joined the CTARNG in July 2000.

“Little did I know, a simple dare to join the military would result in the best decision of my life,” Goins said. “I have had the honor of being a Combat Medic and now a Military Police Officer. I love what I do and wouldn't change any aspect of my career.”

The Joint Force Headquarters located in Hartford was her first appointment as a First Sergeant. Goins said that mentoring her young Soldiers is a responsibility that she takes seriously.

“Something I try to teach all young soldiers: know your job and do your very best. Although praise for your work may not come to you when you feel you deserve it, it will when you most need it. Good things always come to those who wait and when you least expect it. Regardless of your race, creed, color or gender.”

The 192nd Military Police recently executed a change of command and change of responsibility resulting in the appointments of the battalion’s first African-American command team as Lt. Col. Donald Chiverton and Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie Smith are responsible for leading, training and well-being of more than 450 Guardsmen.

The Connecticut Army National Guard has elevated these individuals to senior positions not because of the color of their skin, but because they are experienced and highly qualified individuals, who embody Army Values.

Still, it is important to share their stories so that young Soldiers understand the possibilities available to them in the military.

“My wish, my desire is that at some point in our history there won’t be a ‘first woman’ doing anything, it will just be somebody doing something, you know just like ‘Maj. Gen. Martin is the commander of Fort Leonard Wood,’” said Maj. Gen. Donna W. Martin, Fort Leonard Wood’s first female commander, in a recent interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I don’t even really like talking about myself, but it’s such a necessity to hear the story of women being successful for our future generations.”

And while Jones, Goins, Chiverton and Smith would be the first to agree that talking about themselves and their own careers would be the last thing any of them want to do – the significance of their achievements in uniform should not go untold.