The training site gets its first female chief; The National Guard Center employs 450 people in North Little Rock

Col. Catherine L. Cherry on Thursday became the first woman to take command of the National Guard’s Lavern E. Weber Vocational Training Center.

Since 1974, the center has operated as a full-service training facility and lecture hall with the mission of providing education to the Army Reserve and National Guard. With more than 450 employees, the center runs 370 courses for 10,000 students and hosts 92 conferences for 11,000 participants each year.

Cherry told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that being the center’s first female commander will bring diversity and broaden others’ horizons for future leadership. As commander, Cherry said she would prioritize further upgrading of the education center. She said she looked forward to leading soldiers, civilians and entrepreneurs in a higher education environment.

Born in Fort Polk in central Louisiana and raised in Manhattan, Kansas, Cherry said she came from a family with extensive military ties. She said her mother Sandy, who attended Thursday’s event, had three daughters. All served in the military.

“I don’t know how she survived,” Cherry said. “But she did. And she still does.”

Moving to Arkansas for the first time, Cherry said she and her husband, Kirk, look forward to spending time outdoors. Speaking at the ceremony on Thursday, she said her husband was eager to buy a boat and often texted her “Here’s an option on Boat Trader”.

Cherry said her philosophy – “Great organizations are led by capable, caring, committed, courageous and good-character leaders who foster a learning environment through trust, discipline and mutual respect” – means that she lead by example at the education center and lead an organization whose members are valued and supported.

This idea of ​​leadership has always been true at the education center, Cherry said, and she said she will ensure it continues to be a learning organization because “when you stop learning, you become useless”.

Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jensen presided over Thursday’s change of command ceremony, which took place on the Education Center campus at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock.

During the handover of the commandant, the outgoing commander of the education center passed the brigade colors to Jensen, signifying relinquishment of his command and gratitude for the opportunity to lead. Then Jensen passed the flag to Cherry, showing her confidence with responsibility and care for units.

In his speech, Jensen said Weber’s initial vision for the center was to provide soldiers and leaders with the highest caliber of professional training possible so that they can return to their units with the skills necessary to improve their state of health. preparation. Jensen said he wholeheartedly believes in this idea and sees the center as an adaptive and innovative organization.

“Colonel Cherry’s leadership…is an opportunity for soldiers and leaders who come here to be better served because they will be served by commanders whose only role and function in their organization is to take good care of their soldiers, train their soldiers for their units and prepare them as best as possible,” Jensen said.

When presented with the opportunity to select Cherry for the role, Jensen said it took him “less than half a second to say yes”. He added that Cherry is the right officer with the right skills and experiences to take the center to the next level, and he thanked her for accepting the challenge to become the organization’s next commander.

Most recently, Cherry served as the U.S. Army National Guard (5th Army) Senior Advisor representing the Army National Guard to the Commanding General and ensuring National Guard resources support people. affected by fires and hurricanes, as well as operations associated with covid-19.

Cherry’s leadership comes after the departure of Col. Leland D. Blanchard II, who goes on to serve as the Army National Guard’s G-3 leadership. He first took command of the education center in August 2020.

At the change of command ceremony, Blanchard said the most influential leaders throughout his career were those who led with passion. He said Cherry needs to provide the motivation, passion and inspiration to the instructors at the center so they can pass it on to those they meet in class.

“You are now a mentor of mentors, a leader of leaders, you are now accountable because all of these instructors are touching hundreds and hundreds of lives every day,” Blanchard said. “You are the commander. They will take their cue from you.”

Col. Catherine Cherry (left) is greeted by well-wishers after a change of command ceremony where Cherry became the first female commanding officer of the Army National Guard Bureau’s Lavern E. Weber Vocational Training Center Thursday at Camp Robinson at North Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

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