July 21, 2022 - 7:01 am
Updated July 21, 2022 - 1:21 pm
Sgt. 1st Class Danita Cotton felt so proud to meet the other three Black women who head a Las Vegas-based Army recruiting battalion that she snapped a photo she likes to show everyone.
“I admire all three of them, just to look and see these three here: lieutenant colonel, major, captain. It definitely motivates me,” she said, touting her colleagues’ brightness and their paths into leadership positions, particularly in a “male-dominant organization.”
Cotton was flanked by Lt. Col. Kourtney Logan, Maj. Martina Taylor-Campbell and Capt. Mia Brown, who she described as mentors during a Thursday round-table interview from the battalion’s south Las Vegas headquarters.
The four women lead the Army’s 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion, one of the largest units that seeks out medical professionals and students, as well as chaplains, across the West Coast and as far as Alaska.
The battalion is partnered with more than 300 medical institutions, including Stanford University and Roseman University of Health Sciences, which has campuses in the Las Vegas Valley, where the recruiters pitch Army careers.
“Representation matters,” Taylor-Campbell said about prospects hearing from someone like Cotton, who is most often out on the recruiting field.
“Whether we believe it or not, to see someone who has come before you do it, it really does matter for people to break those barriers and to get to those positions,” she added. “That’s what spurs that passion for other people to say, ‘Hey, they did it. I can do it, too.’”
Nearly 1 in 5 Army members in active duty, National Guard, or the reserves is Black, according to 2020 Department of Defense statistics. Black women made up roughly 30 percent of the nearly 185,000 female Army service members.
The four military leaders, who noted that they reached their positions through merit rather than gender or race, took different paths to get there.
Logan, 37, is a “proud Army brat” who grew up in the East Coast and has been in the service a dozen years. The Army paid for her pediatric dentist degree, and she liked serving so much that she has re-enlisted.
“I really love serving Army families, and taking care of them,” she said. “I have found my passion in the Army doing pediatric dentistry.”
As they reached adulthood, Cotton and her siblings were given an ultimatum by their strict parents: Go to college or enlist in the military.
The 32-year-old from Connecticut and her twin sister and a brother, who both serve in the Air Force, chose the latter.
Either way, joining the military had been in the back of her mind since she was a child and she had watched the 1995 “Mayor Payne” movie, which is about a strict Marine tasked with training troubled youth.
“I love the decision that I made,” she said. “I’m meant to be here. I love the Army. I wouldn’t join any other branch, I’m where I need to be.”
Cotton added: “What I’ve accomplished so far in life, I can honestly say, without the Army, I don’t think I would be where I am.”
Taylor-Campbell, who is half Nigerian, half Creole, grew up in foster care in Virginia.
The 42-year-old participated in Marine Corps JROTC, but chose the Army when she joined the military because she does not like deep water, she said.
The Army has paid for all of her degrees, including a doctorate. She is a practicing nurse.
Early in her 24-year military career, when she was a field artillery surveyor in a male-dominated field, “my little fire started,” she said.
Her mentality was: “You’re not gonna push me out of the way. I want a seat at the table, and I’m going to take my seat, either you’re gonna give it or I’m going to take it, but I’m going to be there.”
Brown was raised in Decatur, Georgia, by a father who is a retired Army major and a practicing physician assistant, and a nurse mother.
“I took the two and two, put them together, and this is how I ended up being here,” said Brown, who has been in the service for a decade.
The 33-year-old captain is an OB-GYN nurse, and the military has offered her the opportunity to be flexible with her career.
She is five months pregnant, and touted her Army benefits, and the purpose it has given her.
“I’m forever grateful being able to serve,” she said.