By 2nd Lt. Rebekah Malone, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
PINEVILLE, La. – Command Sgt. Maj. Veronica LaBeaud of the 199th Brigade Support Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is more than just another Soldier … she is an inspiration.
After serving 32 years in the military, LaBeaud recently became not only the first African-American female command sergeant major in the Louisiana National Guard, but the first-ever female to earn this high rank in the 256th, when she was promoted in a ceremony at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Dec. 3.
LaBeaud took time to personally thank numerous family, friends and colleagues for helping her achieve this accomplishment. “I still have a whole lot to do, and I promise I’m going to make everyone proud,” she said. “All the barriers they talk about, whether its race or gender, it’s not about that – it’s about working hard and going after it.”
Lt. Col. Jason Mahfouz, battalion commander of the 199th BSB, said the recent reversal of the policy that prohibited women from serving on the front lines in combat units made the appointment very fitting.
“I am proud the BSB has this distinction. I know she’ll inspire young enlisted females to rise to the rank and responsibility,” said Mahfouz. “It will open up a lot of opportunities for young Soldiers because it illustrates that all Soldiers have unlimited opportunities if they work hard to achieve their goals.”
“It’s a new beginning by having LaBeaud serve in the 256th. She’s a go-getter – a Soldier’s person,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Sapp, senior enlisted advisor for the 256th IBCT. “She loves to communicate with Soldiers and never forgets where she came from. She brings something different to the table.”
Making the day particularly special for LaBeaud was that her daughter, Melanique LaBeaud, an audiology doctorial student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., could attend.
“I’m so proud of her. She’s been an inspiration to me my entire life,” said Melanique, a New Orleans native. “She set the bar high. Today proves it (sacrifices) all paid off.”
Melanique said she couldn’t miss her mother’s promotion, even with her heavy academic workload as a third-year student. She left immediately from the ceremony to begin her 10-hour
drive back to class.
“I told my professors I was just going to have to miss three days of school!” Melanique laughed.
LaBeaud raised her daughter as a single parent and primary care-giver. When Melanique was in elementary school, Veronica went back to college to get her Bachelor of Science degree. This meant a lot of sacrifice for both of them, so she said the achievement was a joint endeavor and success.
“As Melanique got older, she started to understand what that sacrifice was about,” LaBeaud said as she choked up.
As for the many young-enlisted female Soldiers, Veronica said she is glad they have an example to look at to match their goals.
“If they set their goals high, it’s attainable; they just have to work hard, and there is no reason they can’t make it,” said Veronica. “It wasn’t easy, but I made it. You just have to really want it and if you do, you can achieve it.
“Women are starting to break those barriers and saying, ‘I can compete.’”
LaBeaud graduated from Southern University in New Orleans with a bachelor of science in computer information systems. She has held four different military occupational specialties and served as first sergeant for two different units: Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 139th Regional Support Group, and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 165th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
LaBeaud has worked full-time for the LANG for 23 years and is currently the data processing installation systems administrator.