Virginia National Guard welcomes first female infantry company commander

Capt. Candice Bowen became the first female to take command of a Virginia National Guard infantry company.

WOODSTOCK, Va. — The Virginia National Guard welcomed its first female infantry company commander on Saturday.

Capt. Candice Bowen took command of the Woodstock-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Capt. Timothy England.

Bowen became the Virginia National Guard’s first female infantry officer when she graduated U.S. Army’s Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course on Feb. 1, 2019, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

During the ceremony, her father, a retired Army sergeant major, pinned a blue infantry cord to her uniform, signifying her new military career field.

Bowen said it felt “a bit surreal” being the first female infantry company commander.

“I honestly am just ready to take charge of the company and lead my soldiers,” she said in a news release.

Bowen said other female soldiers considering serving in infantry units should just “jump in there.”

“Do it aggressively, enjoy it, and have fun,” she said.

“If you enjoy it, have fun, and you are giving it everything you got, you will be absolutely fine. You will love it, and it will be the best thing you ever did.”

Col. Joseph DiNonno, commander of the 116th IBCT said Bowen’s selection was based on “merit with no special treatment and an officer who has demonstrated the absolute ability to lead Soldiers in close combat.”

Bowen, a self-proclaimed military brat born in Germany and currently residing in Northern Virginia, graduated and earned her commission from Penn State.

She’d originally branched military police, but a drawn down of military police forces in Virginia left her looking for other opportunities.

 She deployed to Qatar with 3rd Battalion in 2016. She then volunteered for a follow on assignment with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Afghanistan where she was earned the Combat Action Badge.

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