Strength Through Diversity

Staff Sgt. Joy Floyd and Sgt. LaTonya Burnes of the 75th Troop Command. pose for a photo at Bowman Armory in Louisville, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Spc. Harrison Moore)

  By Spc. Harrison Moore, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

When Staff Sgt. Joy Floyd, of the 75th Troop Command in Louisville, Ky, attended basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 2014, she was randomly assigned a battle buddy.

 “We were in the classroom when they pulled us out,” she said.” The Red Cross was there and they told her that her grandmother had passed away.”

Instead of leaving to be with her family, her battle buddy decided to stay at basic and finish because that is what her grandmother would have wanted.

 “I was impressed by her strength in that moment, and it is times like that where you need your Army family the most,” said Floyd.

Floyd is currently on COVID-19 orders where she submits logistics reports and ensures that Soldiers can do the mission correctly by analyzing vehicle record logs. Floyd is a bi-racial Soldier who is a well-known leader within her unit.

“I always try to be positive and when helping younger Soldiers, I try to get my hands dirty and be a servant leader,” said Floyd.

When she was just four years old her grandfather, with whom she recalls many fond memories, passed away at her aunt’s house.

“We went through his box of memorabilia and I took his military name tape out as a keepsake,” said Floyd. She still carries it around with her today.

Her grandfather served for over 33 years in the National Guard and Reserves and she said carrying on his legacy is the main reason that she joined the ranks.

Unlike Floyd, Sgt. LaTonya Burnes, also of the 75th TC, is a first-generation Soldier. She works as a federal technician with the unit. She joined at 19 years old for the opportunity of a better future. At her first unit in Danville, Ky, Burnes was working a minimum wage job in the civilian sector when she had the opportunity to reclassify with her military occupational specialty to broaden her career opportunities. The only problem was that she needed a little more money than she had at the time for a flight expense to the school.

“One of the leaders in my unit gave me $200 out of his own pocket to help me attend school and further my career and that really spoke to me,” said Burnes.

Having generous camaraderie has not been the only benefit of the National Guard for Burnes. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Spalding University, using the Kentucky State Tuition Assistance Program. She has an interest in becoming a homicide detective, but her long term goal is to have a full-time career as an Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Soldier. Last February, Burnes became a mother and that has greatly affected how grateful she is for the National Guard.

“There were days when I couldn’t find childcare and they allowed me to bring him into work. It really meant a lot to me and took a lot of stress off.”

Being a mother, a student, and a Soldier are three roles that Burnes excels in every day. Another role that she has grown into is speaking up about her story as an African American female in the armed forces. This past February, the Kentucky National Guard’s Facebook page featured different Soldier profile each day of the month to celebrate the organization’s diversity. Burnes was featured Feb. 21 and recognized for being an outstanding Soldier.

“My favorite part of putting on the uniform is feeling like I truly belong and that the people here really do care about one another,” said Burnes. Since joining in 2014, she has been awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Kentucky Service Ribbon and the Kentucky Commendation Medal.

“Both Staff Sgt. Floyd and Sgt. Burnes are very professional Soldiers and the Kentucky Army National Guard is better off for having them,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Rowan, 75th TC. “They are self-motivated and hard workers; that is the type of Soldier that strengthens this organization.”

Every Soldier joins for a different reason, and every Soldier who joins has been through something different.

“The Guard brings people together even if they are from different backgrounds and that is one of its main strengths,” said Floyd.

Last year, when Floyd’s dad passed away, she said that one of the sergeants in her unit texted her every day to make sure she was okay. “It felt great to know that someone at my place of work had my back,” said Floyd.

It all comes back to being a good battle buddy like she tried to be during her first few days at basic training when her comrade lost her grandmother.

Floyd and Burnes both agree that people of diverse backgrounds are more than welcome in the National Guard and are given many opportunities to thrive like they have. Both Soldiers continue to inspire other black American women and people from all walks of life by proudly serving their community and upholding the Army Values.

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