Army National Guard Names First Black Woman Battalion Commander In Tennessee


September 5, 2022

Congratulations are in order!

The Army National Guard recently named its first Black woman battalion commander in Tennessee, DVIDS reports.

Lt. Col.  was born in Sierra Leone, she and her family relocating to America due to civil unrest when she was just 15 years old. Shortly after their arrival, her father suddenly passed away. In 1992, am-Kpakra joined the National Guard, crediting her father as being her inspiration for joining. 


“Through his service, he found great meaning in life which brought him profound joy. 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,” she told reporters. 

Dedicated to her mission, she continued to work herself up through the ranks over the years, earning an officer commission in 1998 and working with the Tennessee National Guard since 2012. During that time, she has served in a number of capacities including, as a member of Operation Enduring Freedom at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and as commander of Headquarters, Headquarters company, (-) 29th Divisional support Command and the 529th Quartermaster Detachment. Now the Lt. Col. has made history, being named by the Army National Guard as the first Black woman battalion commander in Tennessee. 

Sam-Kpakra took to social media to share her good news, also speaking on the Army’s commitment to diversity. 


“On 7 August 2022, I assumed command of the 230th Special Troops Battalion, making me the first African American woman to ever command a Battalion size element in the Tennessee Army National Guard. I am both humbled and honored to be a part of this historic moment and excited to serve the men and women of an amazing unit. This moment signifies the progress the Army has made on truly being diverse, equitable and inclusive to all, “ she wrote on Linkedin. 

She will take over for previous commander Lt. Col. Andy Stafford. Sam-Kpakra was given the role during Smyrna’s Volunteer Training Site, speaking on her mission of bringing meaningful change to the world.  She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated, spending her time outside of work and philanthropy with her family and children. She said her new appointment is like a dream come true.

“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,” Sam-Kpakra explained. 


She hopes to inspire others to fall in her footsteps, advocating for those who look like her to pursue more leadership roles. Her advice to the young leaders who may be looking at her as an example is simple, take advantage of all of your resources and stay prepared. 

“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. I would further advise them to complete the 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 the role and those around them,” said Sam-Kpakra.

Congratulations Odessa! Because of you, we can.


Photo Courtesy of Odessa K. Sam-Kpakra/Linkedin

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