Chief inspires through a career of selfless service to community
By Army Sgt. Wesley Parrell, Arizona National Gaurd Public Affairs
/ Published February 19, 2016
PHOENIX -- The desire to serve can become addictive and for a select few, the drive to satisfy this calling is a never ending task. This is the fiber that makes up Chief Master Sgt. Barbara Alexander, force support manager for the Arizona Air National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters.
Although her career expands nearly three decades, Chief Alexander remembers her motivation to serve came in her early twenties.
"I was 23 years old working as a hair dresser," Alexander said. "Clientele was sporadic and I wanted a way to provide a steady income and benefits for my daughter."
She had contemplated taking a state job with the Arizona Department of Corrections but her family initially talked her out of this pursuit. They were concerned that her 4-foot-11-inch stature was too small for the demands of being a corrections officer.
One day by chance, she began talking to a recruiter for the U.S. Army Reserves. As he explained the opportunities that lie in wait for her as a member in the armed forces an awakening of her subconscious breathed new life into her future.
"I saw this as the opportunity I was looking for," Alexander said. "This desire to serve began to grow, and I could supplement my income and gain health benefits, all while pursuing other interest I had for myself."
In April 1987, she signed as a Motor Transportation Operator with the Army Reserves and was assigned to a unit in Phoenix. After returning from her initial entry training she felt a renewed confidence in herself and her abilities to make a difference.
"I began experiencing successes right away and my hard work was recognized as I promoted in the system," Alexander said. "This success lead me to revisit my initial interest to become a corrections officer."
In 1988, she was hired by the Arizona Department of Corrections and immediately began implementing the same work ethic and leadership skills she developed during her military service. After two years she applied to the City of Phoenix Police Department and began the police academy in 1990.
As naturally as breathing, Chief Alexander began balancing the demands of two careers that are each challenging in their own right. She contributes her success in both fields to implementing skills developed in one to the other.
"I tell service members and police officers that work for me to always remain flexible," Alexander said. "By remaining ready for any of the challenges or opportunities that arise in life, you are ready to rise to the occasion when called upon."
In 1995, after 8 years in the Army reserves, she continued her military service by enlisting in the Arizona Air National Guard in logistics. This presented a whole new list of challenges learning the ins and outs of a new organization. She was also promoted to patrol sergeant in the Phoenix police department with new responsibilities and procedures to learn. Following her own motto to remain flexible she remained dedicated, learning all she could to be successful in her new found roles.
Now Chief Alexander serves as a traditional drilling Guardsman, as the force support manager for the Arizona Air National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters and as a Lieutenant in the Phoenix Police Department, as the Lieutenant over the school resource officer program.
Chief Alexander always gives the same advice to up-and-coming leaders.
"You can never fake being yourself. You can be given a title but the ability to lead must come from within. Before you can ask your subordinates to meet a standard, you must hold yourself to that same standard."