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    Tenn. Army National Guard names first African American female battalion commander

    Tenn. Army National Guard names first African American female battalion commander

    Photo By Capt. Kealy Moriarty | Lt. Col. Odessa K. Sam-Kpakra assumed command of the 230th Special Troops Battalion ...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Kealy Moriarty 

    Tennessee National Guard Public Affairs Office

    SMYRNA, Tenn. – In a historic change of command ceremony, the Tennessee Army National Guard appointed the first African American female battalion commander on Aug. 7.

    Lt. Col. Andy Stafford, the previous commander of the 230th Special Troops Battalion, relinquished command to Lt. Col. Odessa K. Sam-Kpakra, at Smyrna’s Volunteer Training Site, making her the first African American female in the history of the Tennessee Army National Guard to command a battalion sized unit.

    Sam-Kpakra joined the National Guard in 1992 and earned her officer commission in 1998 from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s ROTC program. In 2012, she transferred to the Tennessee National Guard where she deployed in 2013 to support Operation Enduring Freedom at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Most recently, Sam-Kpakra served as the Chief Supply Branch Officer for National Guard Bureau. Her previous command positions include commander of Headquarters, Headquarters Company, (-) 29th Divisional Support Command and the 529th Quartermaster Detachment.

    When asked why she joined the military, Sam-Kpakra credits her father and his selfless service to his community for her inspiration.

    “Through his service, he found great meaning in life which brought him profound joy,” said Sam-Kpakra. “He often told my siblings and I to be strong instruments for good in our communities whenever we could and bring meaningful change to the lives of those who need it. These valuable lifelong lessons remained with me and inspired me to join the greatest military in the world – the United States Army.”

    Her story only begins there. Sam-Kpakra was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where she resided until she was 15 years old. Due to a rise in civil unrest in the area, her father relocated his family to America. She explained the decision was easy because her mother is American, making her and her siblings American by birth, so the initial transition was not difficult. Unfortunately, shortly after their relocation, her father passed away. Despite this tragedy, Sam-Kpakra prevailed and continued on her path to success.

    “After his death, I found purpose in my mission and committed wholeheartedly to an organization that provided me great opportunities to excel from my youth through my adulthood,” she said. “I continue to serve today, because I enjoy the impact of our work at home, in our local communities and abroad, as we protect the homeland and defend freedom.”

    Sam-Kpakra’s story is unique and inspirational not only to her family, but to young officers and other young adults seeking to follow in her footsteps.

    “It is my hope to inspire men and women who look like me to pursue leadership roles and build on the Army’s diversity and inclusion goals, in order to strengthen our organization,” said Sam-Kpakra.

    When asked what advice she would give to these young leaders, Sam-Kpakra said, “Success is when opportunity meets preparation, therefore it’s important to always be prepared. To this end, I would tell junior officers of the importance to have a 5-year plan at a minimum and manage that plan closely.” She continues, “I would further advise them to complete their Professional Military Education and seek broadening assignments to complement Key Developmental positions. These assignments would further prepare officers for greater responsibility and provide even greater insight into their role and those around them.”

    The Tennessee National Guard is proud to have such a distinguished leader to lead the men and women assigned to the 230th Special Troops Battalion.

    “It is the pinnacle of a Lieutenant Colonel’s career that offers an opportunity to interact with Soldiers directly once again and effect change at the ground level – this is why I serve,” said Sam-Kpakra.

    In addition to her impressive military career, Sam-Kpakra has a remarkable civilian background. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Business Administration. Sam-Kpakra and her husband, Joseph Abdulai, have two daughters, Nyanda and Saadya, and a son, JoeJoe.



    Date Taken: 08.07.2022
    Date Posted: 08.08.2022 16:41
    Story ID: 426806
    Location: SMYRNA, TN, US

    Web Views: 3,815
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