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Russell takes command of HHC

Her willingness to serve is match by a milestone in 29th ID (L) history, last month she became the first female officer to take command of the HHC.

SFC David Moore

29th Infantry Division (Light) PAO


Photos  by Spc. Benjamin Gilbert/

29th ID(L) PAO

Capt. Judith Russell returns the unit colors to !st Sgt. Phillip Scott after taking command of the 29th ID (L) Headquarters, Headquarters Company  May 4 at Fort Belvoir, Va.

(Click on photos for the full image)

A FAMILY GUARD AFFAIR--Capt. Judith Russell, front row center, is surrounded by family, friends, and division leaders. They include parents James and Maryann, as well as Brig. Gen. Arthur H. Wyman.

Capt. Judith Russell, who took the helm as the Headquarters, Headquarters Company commander May 4, knew she wanted to play a vital role in the government because of her family service to country, but didn’t realize that the military would be her path until she reached college.

Last month, she became the first female officer to take command of the company which places her in charge of the training, equipping and the well-being of nearly 240 soldiers—many of whom come from the combat arms element of the division.

“I’ve always been a person who has never been afraid to accept a challenge. I never liked walking away from something I knew I could do,” Russell said.

Sometimes even if those challenges meant overcoming her fears. In 1999, To alleviate her fear, Russell completed Airborne School, at Fort Benning, Ga. heights. She admits today that she still has that fear but won’t let it stand it the way.  She quipped, “Anything between 10 feet and 100 feet is frightening, after that it’s great!”

Russell graduated from Villa Marie Academy High School, in Buffalo, N.Y. Late in the high school years, she teamed up with a few friends and decided to give the Reserve Officer Training Corps a shot for college.

The goal, if successful, at the State University of New York in Buffalo, was they would become Military Intelligence Officers and  travel the world. It was during the ROTC training the U.S. Army began looking good.

“I never made better friends than those I made then and today in the military. The camaraderie is unparalleled in any other job in the world,” Russell said.

She graduated from the university with a degree in political science and branched as a chemical officer.

Russell’s first duty station was Camp Sears, Uijongbu, South Korea, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division’s 5-5 Air Defense Artillery, as the Battalion chemical officer.  She then became a Heavy Decontamination Platoon Leaded in 4th Chemical Company at Camp Sears, South Korea.

One year later, with the Airborne School education, she moved on to Fort Hood, Texas where she served as a Brigade Chemical Officer in the 1st Medical Brigade and her final active assignment as the Corps Chemical Logistics Officer.  The word on the street during the transfer was it was going to be a “break from the optempo,” she claims.

She was on the Third Corps staff as a Chemical Logistics Officer-a one-person shop in charge of a 1st Calvary Division warehouse that supports every III Corps unit such as those assigned to Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Huachua. But she started the job one week before the War on Terrorism began—Sept 11, 2001.

“Nothing is easy when you go to war and it was around the clock operations. The U.S. Army was on the move,” she said.

As her active duty military time was drawing to a close, she decided to continue her career with the 29th Infantry Division (L) and a new fulltime job as a Critical Reagents Program Analyst in the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense under the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In January 2003, she became one of the NBC officers in the 29th’s division chemical section.

When Capt. John Lewis, the outgoing HHC commander was selected to command the 229th Chemical Company, and was called up for Operation Enduring Freedom, Russell was selected for company command.

When Lewis left the headquarters company, soldiers started to spread rumors that the new commander was “physical fitness crazy.” She chuckles at the rumor.  But she has participated in the Army Ten Miler with a time of 87 minutes.

“I don’t know about rumors. I can say this, that everyone has seen the pictures of the war in Iraq. Look at the soldiers humping those rucks. Everyone has got to be ready for that,” she said.

“My job is to make sure every soldier in my charge is ready and cared for administratively, equipped and trained. I believe these ambitious soldiers know that. The soldiers have the understanding their job is to protect a country and not for the few dollars they make a month.  And I will never ask them to perform a task that I cannot do.” she Russell adds.

She explains that Lewis spent countless hours in developing the company and she wants to bring a successful close several issues Lewis started such as establishing a strong family support program. But Russell adds that to move the company to that next higher level of efficiency is to successfully cross talk information up and down the ranks.

“In addition I will use all my resources to make a positive difference in the organization and tap some of the talented resources in this company to make it happen,” she said.

There is funding available to pay soldiers to come to the unit to do extra work for improvement, she explained. Russell also wants to push the organization to a higher camaraderie level.

Russell still has family in Buffalo, who worry about the state of world affairs, but continue to be proud of her achievements. They are her father; James, a Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran; mother, MaryAnn; and her brother Doug.


--Capt. Judith Russell, Headquarters, Headquarters Company command reenlists 1st Sgt. Phillip Scott with some in front of the 29th Infantry Division Headquarters building, Fort Belvoir, Va., on May 4 the same day Russell took command of the company of 240 soldiers. (Click on images for full size)

Photos by Spc. Benjamin P. Gilbert

  Thursday September 11, 2003