Introduce yourself and profession to our readers: I am an author, mentor, fitness-junkie, and a proud Army retiree with over 24 years of active service. I have an undergraduate degree in Human Resources, and Masters Degrees Human Resources and in Education. I retired as a Command Sergeant Major in 2000, and since my retirement, I have been using my experiences in the Army to propel the second phase of my career.
My post-military employment was with Augusta University, College of Dental Medicine as Director for Patient Services, and I’ve also pursued my goals of teaching in higher education by working with the University of Phoenix-Augusta, Georgia Campus. I started as an Associate Faculty member, and was quickly promoted to Area Chair for the School of Business. In 2010, I was honored to be selected as the University of Phoenix local campus Faculty of the Year.
I am also a fan of all things fitness, and I believe staying fit is the best approach to feeling good about getting older. I demonstrate my innovate approach to healthy aging by serving as a Certified Walk15® Leader. Walk15® takes the best features from aerobic style, group exercises, and infuses it with “walking-based” moves. It is a program that virtually anyone can do, and as a Certified Walk Leader, I am available to lead Walk15® workshops in communities across the world.
I am enjoying retirement and a lot my time is spent traveling with my husband of 40 plus years, 1SG Louis McNeill (ret), my daughter, Montrece, and granddaughter, Alyxandra. I am also excited to have the time to pursue another one of my long-term goals, and I’ve recently become a published author. I am enjoying sharing the nuggets and gems I’ve learned about life, career, and determination with the next generation of leaders, both in the military and in other fields. My first book, Stripes, Strength, and Lipstick was released this Spring, and it tells the story of how "lessons learned" as a soldier and a leader in the US Army facilitated a successful post military civilian career and the tenacity to pursue personal goals.
What inspired you to pursue this area of interest? I have a love for people and that inspires most all things I do! As I mention in Stripes, Strength, and Lipstick, I was inspired to join the military because, I needed to do something to launch my life as an adult. But, my military entrance scores indicated that the medical field for was a good fit for me. When I joined the US Army, there was a need for dental specialists (dental assistants, hygienist), and the Army’s assessment was indeed correct! The dental field, working with patients and staff, was right up my alley.
However, I knew early on that I wanted to lead soldiers. So, about five years into my military career, I began researching and applying to various military leadership schools. When I was accepted to them all, I knew I was on the right track. My training as a dental technician then came to a halt, and I was on the management/supervisory track, where I found success. Success for me was serving in a capacity to lead and develop soldiers, and I was awarded for that work in many ways, many times over. It was the combination of my educational background, training in dentistry, and my experience in management in the US Army, that made me a unique fit for my first post-military position as the Director of Patient Services, College of Dental Medicine, Augusta University.
One of the secrets of my success is that consistent training keeps me motivated. When I’m in a constant state of learning, it gives me the motivation to keep going. Learning new things allows me to level up. This is one of the reasons that I became a Certified Walk15® Leader. I’ve always had a love for fitness, and my love for people inspires me to want to share with others the benefits of staying fit. Becoming a Walk15® Leader allowed me to learn new ways to help people stay healthy as they age. My goal is not only to lead my groups through a fun, music-filled walk-based exercise program, but to serve as a mentor and role-model for healthy aging.
Another lesson I have learned is that mentorship matters. I was inspired to become an author because I have a story to tell! My first book is a collection of military memoirs. During my military career, I had the opportunity to mentor hundreds of soldiers, and I have also had some great mentors. Additionally, as a young soldier I happened to meet, and marry, a non-commissioned office. So, constant mentoring was my norm. Stripes, Strength, and Lipstick, and the books that will follow, are opportunities for me to mentor and reach a wider audience with a message of tenacity and perseverance, despite obstacles.
What advice would you share with those interested in a similar pursuit? Once you decide on your career choice, start researching opportunities for growth. Once you have established and visualized what long-term success looks like, you must seek out and pursue those opportunities. You can’t sit back, and expect anyone to give you your career. You must build it on your own.
As I’ve mentioned, mentorship is important. Find a mentor and emulate the traits you identify in successful leaders. Speaking as an Army retiree, I can say the military offers roadmaps for success...find your organization's or field’s success map. Additionally, do not allow naysayers to stop your progress. You must be diligent and forceful in your pursuit. Regardless of your career choice, there are supporters and your tribe. You merely need to seek them out.
Discuss a professional challenge and how you overcame it: During my career, I have had numerous professional challenges and hurdles. However, one situation stands out. I was on my pursuit of a senior leadership position, referred to in the Army as the unit's First Sergeant. In layman's terms, a First Sergeant is considered the senior enlisted advisor to the commander. In the dental field, during my active duty years, there were very few "Diamond' wearing First Sergeants. In the event, a situation required a leader, the Diamond meant seniority.
I knew this would be a challenging role, but serving as a First Sergeant was needed for my career trajectory to become an E9, Sergeant Major. So I started “marketing me." I was often asked why I wanted to be a First Sergeant, my response was consistent: ”I strongly feel that I would be excellent in this role. I have something to share for the good of our soldiers, my unit, and the Army.” It was almost like an elevator pitch. It was definitely my mantra. My diligence paid off; I was promoted and I received an assignment for First Sergeant, and was relocated from Fort Benning, Georgia to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, one of the best tours of my career.
What is next for your brand/business in 2018? I have a busy year ahead of me, and I have identified three specific goals for my business in 2018. First, I am excited to add a second book to my portfolio. This summer, I plan to release my second book, Push Through: How the Process Leads to the Promise. In this co-authored e-book, I join 29 other powerhouse authors, and discuss ways to move from doubting yourself to winning at any challenge you may face.
Secondly, I plan to launch a small book tour, and visit military installations across the southeastern US. I’m looking forward to sharing both of my books with young soldiers, and having an opportunity to do some motivational speaking. And, my third goal focuses on launching my brand as a Certified Walk15® Leader. I have plans to connect with local organizations, like the YMCA and non-profits, to offer my classes during the summer of 2018.
How can readers connect with you online and through social media? I can be reached for speaking engagements, book signings, or Walk15® consultations by visiting my
In the meantime, please follow me on Instagram at @StripesStrengthandIipstick