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    Senate Sergeant at Arms Celebrates Women’s History with the D.C. National Guard

    Senate Sergeant at Arms Celebrates Women’s History with the D.C. National Guard

    Photo By 1st Sgt. Khalia Jackson | D.C. National Guard (DCNG) hosted Lt. Gen. (ret.) Karen Gibson, sergeant at arms, U.S....... read more read more



    Story by 1st Sgt. Khalia Jackson 

    DC National Guard

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – She remembered being a second lieutenant and company commander in the U.S. Army, participating in a 10-kilometer culminating exercise where all participants had to wear full combat gear, ruck sack, skis, and mountain boots, while repeatedly dropping down and engaging with their M16s. She also remembered being the only woman there. That is when she fell in love with being a Soldier.

    This was a memorable story of Lt. Gen. (ret.) Karen Gibson, sergeant at arms, U.S. Senate, and one of two women to ever hold the position.

    The D.C. National Guard (DCNG) hosted Gibson for a Women's History Month lunch event, aligned with the current theme, Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories, at the DCNG Armory, March 17, 2023.

    Gibson is the chief law enforcement officer of the Senate, charged with maintaining the security and protection of the Capitol and Senate buildings, and has protocol responsibilities such as escorting the President of the United States and other heads of state or official guests of the Senate who are attending official functions in the U.S. Capitol.

    Maj Gen Sherrie L. McCandless, commanding general, District of Columbia National Guard, introduced Gibson and explained that they met during the U.S. Capitol response in January 2021. “She was very supportive of the guardsmen on mission and was always here to help,” said McCandless.

    The more than one hour collaborative conversation was filled with the many stories leading up to Gibson accepting the position as the Senate Sergeant at Arms.

    Gibson shared that she never thought she’d have a career in the military and joined the U.S. Army during a time when many positions were coded male only.

    When Gibson participated in that exercise as a second lieutenant, she quickly learned the best way to be accepted as a part of the team.

    "I learned that once I demonstrated competence, people stopped worrying about what bathroom I was going to use," Gibson said.

    Chronological details of her career continued, many that McCandless could relate to as a fighter pilot.

    McCandless is the first woman to be appointed as the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, and is responsible for the strategic leadership, training, readiness, operational employment and performance of its Army and Air Force components. She spent most of her career as a pilot and commander of fighter aircraft units.

    “We don’t really expect much from you because you’re a girl,” McCandless said she often heard. Little did her counterparts know, she thrived on competition.

    Gibson added, “I exceeded expectations from the very beginning because nobody expecting anything.”

    Even when times were challenging, both women persevered beyond belief.

    Gibson went on to explain how she found out about the position which led to her to becoming the Senate Sergeant at Arms, after 33 years of serving in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer.

    She retired during the COVID-19 pandemic, started working as a professor at Georgetown University, and one week later a retired general she had worked with many years ago was looking for the best candidate to serve on a U.S. Capitol response team, responsible for threat mitigation and incident analysis and prevention. Gibson advocated that she was qualified for the position.

    After the unprecedented actions on January 6, 2021, having already been working in a protection capacity, Gibson was offered to be the Senate Sergeant at Arms.

    “This position took me right back to my time in the Army. Once you demonstrate competence, dedication and show people that you care, people start to have confidence in you,” said Gibson. “I even took the same oath.”

    From her decades of experience, she shared lessons learned and key factors in her success.

    The list included networking, advocating for self (as she did to get her first position in the Capitol building), do your best, be open to new opportunities, and be willing to take risks as there is no reward without it.

    McCandless added that people should also “find those that are isolated and have exceeded their comfort zone and take them with you.”

    At the conclusion of the question-and-answer part of the event, Marcus Hunt, director, D.C. Government Operations, expressed admiration for the accomplishments of each of the women.

    Hunt ended his comments with, “when you see a woman walking the President out or a woman fighter pilot…I am able to tell my daughters, you can do that.”



    Date Taken: 03.17.2023
    Date Posted: 03.22.2023 13:03
    Story ID: 440937
    Location: WASHINGTON, DC, US 
    Hometown: WASHINGTON, DC, US

    Web Views: 154
    Downloads: 0