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NEWS | Sept. 14, 2023

Goodwin goes with the flow, reaches top warrant officer rank

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

This year, Chief Warrant Officer 5 DJuana Goodwin became the first African American woman to ever attain the top warrant officer rank in the Virginia Army National Guard. Over nearly 40 years, she’s gone with the flow, taken care of Soldiers, forged indelible friendships, beaten breast cancer and become a mainstay in the organization.
“Her journey has included sacrifice, hardship, loss and grief, but she is resilient, and she is a survivor,” said Maj. Kim Wynn, battalion commander for the VNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion and longtime friend of Goodwin. “Being the first is always challenging. There’s no blueprint, there’s no policy, no regulation. But Chief Goodwin has blazed a path and blown down doors for all female warrants and officers who have followed in her footsteps.”
When Goodwin was approached by a recruiter in 1984 as a college student at Virginia State University, she didn’t know anything about the National Guard. Her brother had served a few years in the U.S. Army, and she’d been active in JROTC in high school and ROTC in college, but, she said, “those were more for easy As than anything else,” and besides, they never included a mention of the National Guard.
Her recruiter filled her in. She learned, with the National Guard, she could continue to focus on her studies, get college paid for and earn some additional income on the side. So, she enlisted as what was then a 75C, an Army Personnel Management Specialist, and started drilling at the now-demolished Dove Street Armory in Richmond. She said “there wasn’t much to do” for her and the other new recruits. They spent their time getting to know one another and, once summer came around, Goodwin shipped to basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
The next summer, she should have completed Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, but that’s not what happened. She focused on school, worked her way up to a management position at McDonald’s and kept drilling at Dove Street. During annual training, she served in the usual roles reserved for junior enlisted Soldier: driver, floor sweeper, kitchen patrol. But she didn’t go to AIT.
“I guess they didn’t realize I hadn’t gone yet,” Goodwin said. She watched her friends get promoted to specialist while she remained a private, albeit a very experienced one. She kept asking about it, about when she’d go to school and when she’d get promoted, but her unit felt sure she’d already gone to AIT, even when she assured them she had not. Finally, during an inspection, her unit realized she really hadn’t gone to AIT.
With just three days’ notice, Goodwin hustled herself to Fort Benjamin Harrison, in Indiana, to finally learn her MOS. It was 1989, a full five years after she first enlisted.
Goodwin, still a private, drove herself to AIT and showed up in street clothes. When she got there, the drill sergeant seemed baffled by her sudden appearance. He asked who she was and where she’d come from and she told him, she was Pfc. Goodwin, from Virginia. He told her to go put a uniform on.
“I passed the course and had a lot of friends because I was a private with a car,” Goodwin said. Fridays at AIT were half-days and more often than not, she and her classmates made good use of their time in Indiana, traveling around the area and “going to see the sights.” At that point in her life, her travel experience was mostly limited to Virginia. She and her peers wandered around Indiana and visited Chicago, too. “We did it up. We had cameras. We were all just so excited and I had a ball.”
After she completed her sightseeing and training in Indiana, Goodwin came back to Virginia and deployed in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield with the 183rd Personnel Service Detachment. There were a lot of unknowns going into that mission, and Goodwin remembers hoping no harm came to her or any member of her team, but mostly, her plan was to “just go with the flow.”
“You just don’t worry about it,” Goodwin said about the potential for danger. “You just go ahead and do the job.”
For 17 years, Goodwin did the job. By 2001, she’d earned the rank of staff sergeant, along with a criminal justice degree. In early September, Goodwin’s leaders approached her with an opportunity. At the time, the Virginia National Guard’s officer ranks were lacking in diversity and, in an attempt to rectify the issue, leaders asked Goodwin if she’d ever consider becoming a warrant officer.
“I had no aspirations at the time, I was just working, just going with the flow,” Goodwin said.
Busy at Fort Dix, New Jersey, supporting a mobilization of Soldiers headed to Bosnia, Goodwin found a free weekend and went to New York City with her friends. There, she told Wynn about the warrant officer opportunity, came back to talk to her leaders about it and ultimately decided that becoming a warrant officer would allow her to continue to focus on her career field and contribute in an even bigger way. She told her leaders, yes, she’d become a warrant officer.
The plan was to send her to Warrant Officer Candidate School as soon as possible, but then 9/11 happened. She and her team worked to mobilize Virginia National Guard Soldiers to airports across the state, working through the night to get the job done. Still, with just two weeks’ notice, she shipped to WOCS in October, and, by November, she was a warrant officer.
“They told her they wanted her to be a warrant officer in September, and she was a warrant officer in November,” Wynn said.
After that, Goodwin worked in a variety of roles, both as a military technician and within the Active Guard/Reserve, or AGR, program. Her favorite role was as the education services officer, where she helped Soldiers with state tuition assistance, a benefit Goodwin herself used to fully fund her own degree.
“I just wanted to let everyone know to take advantage of the benefit,” Goodwin said. “Even if you just do one class at a time, the next thing you know, you’ll have a degree.”
In 2012, Goodwin was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told nearly no one, just her supervisor and, of course, her friend and confidant, Wynn.
“First I thought, ‘oh, I’m going to die,’” Goodwin said. But she didn’t. She just went with the flow. “Nothing was going to stop me.
In treating the cancer, Goodwin had two lumpectomies, along with six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. Wynn was her escort to those appointments, the two quietly slipping out of work early on treatment days, because of course, Goodwin continued to go to work, even attended a school and passed an Army Physical Fitness Test while in treatment and ultimately, she beat breast cancer.
“I’ve been really loyal to this organization,” Goodwin said on her commitment to her work. She maintains that she never really developed a career path. Her focus is and always has been on helping Soldiers. “We’re just trying to get you taken care of, to get you paid, to get you promoted.”
She never imagined she’d make it to the top warrant officer rank. She’s spent her time in the Virginia National Guard just going with the flow and making the best of the opportunities it’s provided her.
“I’m just coming to work, doing my job, being a team player and just thankful I had a job,” Goodwin said. “I love my job, and I love the organization and if I can help a Soldier, I will.”
Wynn believes that Goodwin’s dedication to helping Soldiers is exactly what’s led to her success.
“She helped so many other people out with their careers and I think she put that good karma out there, and it’s coming back to her,” Wynn said. 
Today, Goodwin serves as the Virginia National Guard’s G1 personnel chief, where she’s still just going with the flow and helping Soldiers.
“I never expected this at all, and I definitely didn’t get here on my own, there are so many people who helped me along the way,” Goodwin said. “I’m so thankful.”

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