NEWS | March 5, 2021

229th BEB NCO felt destined for military service

By Spc. Holden Russell MTC Public Affairs

As a kid, Sgt. Cassandra Lyons grew up playing with G.I Joes, so it wasn’t that surprising when she joined the Virginia National Guard her junior year of high school.
 
“I felt almost destined to be in the military,” she explained. “I had an interest in the comradery the organization provides.”
 
Lyons grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, raised alongside her two siblings by a single mom. She was an honor roll student in high school and participated in Junior ROTC. She encountered hardships as a kid, but today she’s thankful for the lessons she’s learned through those experiences and says they’ve helped turn her into the woman she is today.
 
While military service always seemed like a given for Lyons, she chose the National Guard because of their split option that allowed her to join while still a high school student. She completed Basic Combat Training, or BCT, the summer after her junior year, returned home to finish her senior year of high school, and then attended Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, the summer after that, and trained as an 88M Motor Transport Operator.
 
For 10 years she worked as an 88M, going from a trainee to a trainer. As she approached her Expiration Term of Service, or ETS, she looked for a new opportunity and applied for a full-time position as a supply sergeant with Alpha Company, 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
 
In April 2020, Lyons was accepted into the new position and became the unit’s first female supply sergeant. In her new role, she says she manages the commander’s property book consisting of more than $40 million of equipment, and she’s also responsible for distributing gear to the Soldiers.
 
“We are in charge of everything from beans to bullets,” Lyons said.
 
Most recently, Lyons was among the more than 2,000 Virginia National Guard Soldiers to support the 59th Presidential Inauguration and was part of one of the first units on the ground in Washington, D.C. She said it was a surreal experience and that it helped highlight how important the role of supply and leadership are to a unit’s success.
 
On equality and observances like Women’s History Month, Lyons explained it’s important because it helps emphasize what women are capable of.
 “[Women’s History Month] allows us to be unified in acknowledging women’s impact on the world, not only in the workforce but in their surrounding communities. Women are often not viewed as equals in the workforce. But in the military, it’s based on rank, not gender. This allows women to portray their skillsets in a variety of fields by challenging traditional ways with different viewpoints,” she said.
 
Over her 12 years of service, Lyons has witnessed a lot of change when it comes to what roles are available to women and increased inclusion for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
 
“I am a part of the LGBT community and have never felt more included in the military,” Lyons explained. “Just in the 12 years I’ve served, the military has evolved in so many ways. I would have never thought I’d be the first female supply sergeant for a combat engineer unit, but here I am and I love it.”
 
The next step for Lyons is attending the U.S. Army’s Advanced Leader Course, which will qualify her for promotion. She intends to make a career of the National Guard and hopes to one day reach the rank of sergeant major, or attend Warrant Officer Candidate School and become a warrant officer.
 
“The experience is what you make of it,” she said when asked what advise she would give others considering military service. “I would advise them to keep all avenues open and to not be afraid to try new things. Don’t ever become complacent [and] continue to challenge yourself.”
 
March is Women’s History Month and this month we’re talking about the history and legacy of the women who have and are serving in our organization.