Virginia National Guard welcomes first female infantry company commander

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Capt. Candice Bowen becomes the first female officer to take command of a Virginia National Guard infantry company July 18, 2020, in Woodstock, Virginia. Bowen became the VNG’s first female infantry officer after completing the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course in 2019, and took command of the Woodstock-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Capt. Timothy England. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

WOODSTOCK, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia National Guard welcomed the first woman infantry company commander on Saturday.

Capt. Candice Bowen is the first woman to take command of a Virginia National Guard infantry company stationed out of Woodstock, Virginia.

“It feels a bit surreal,” Bowen said about being the first female infantry company commander. “I honestly am just ready to take charge of the company and lead my Soldiers.”

Bowen took command of the Woodstock-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Capt. Timothy England.

Bowen’s advice to other female soldiers considering serving in infantry units: “Do it. Just jump in there. Do it aggressively, enjoy it, and have fun. If you enjoy it, have fun, and you are giving it everything you got, you will be absolutely fine. You will love it, and it will be the best thing you ever did.”

She became the VNG’s first female infantry officer when she graduated U.S. Army’s Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course in February of 2019.

During the ceremony, her father, a retired Army sergeant major, pinned a blue infantry cord to her uniform, signifying her new military career field.

“It is important to recognize progress and success where we find it in our organizations both as encouragement for those who forge it but equally as an example for others to follow and as affirmation of the values we collectively hold,” said Col. Joseph DiNonno, commander of the 116th IBCT.

“Today marks a special moment in the Virginia Army National Guard history as we welcome the first female infantry company commander, a selection based on merit with no special treatment and an officer who has demonstrated the absolute ability to lead Soldiers in close combat. I take special pride in seeing this change of command and knowing what we celebrate as a first today will be commonplace tomorrow.”

Bowen, born into the military, currently lives in Northern Virginia. She graduated and earned her commission from Penn State. She deployed to Qatar with 3rd Battalion in 2016 then volunteered for a follow on assignment with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Afghanistan where she was earned the Combat Action Badge.

The ceremony can be viewed on the Virginia National Guard YouTube page.


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