Women of Influence: Major General Sheryl Gordon

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One of the top ranking women in the state, Major General Sheryl Gordon, has been serving Alabama for over 30 years and counting.

Her hard work and unrelenting dedication to the Alabama National Guard have paid off in a big way; she remains not only the first female General in the organization, but also the first and only female to reach the Adjutant General rank in the organization’s history.

Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon2

Maj. Gen. Sheryl E. Gordon, Alabama National Guard adjutant general, addressing the crowd at the 100th anniversary of Fort McClellan. Aug. 26, 2017. [Photo Credit: Alabama National Guard]

Gordon was born and raised in Selma and graduated from Selma High School. She obtained her bachelors degree from Birmingham Southern College in 1979, and received her first assignment as a Second Lieutenant with the Alabama National Guard in Montgomery in 1981.

She was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1984, and quickly rose to Captain the following year.

She obtained her second Bachelors degree, this one in education, from Auburn University at Montgomery in 1987.

She went on to work at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City for two decades; teaching chemistry for 10 years, and after receiving her Master’s of Education from Auburn University at Montgomery, she served as the school’s vice principal for another 10 years.

Gordon continued to rise through the ranks, and obtained numerous awards and certificates along the way, including:

  • Meritorious Service Medal (with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters)
  • Army Commendation Medal 
  • Army Achievement Medal (with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster)
  • Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal (with 1 Silver Oak Leaf Cluster and 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters)
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Humanitarian Service Medal 
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with Silver Hourglass Device)
  • Army Service Ribbon
  • Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon (with Numeral 2)
  • Alabama Veteran Service Meal (with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster)
  • Alabama Special Service Ribbon
  • Alabama Faithful Service Ribbon (with Silver and Bronze Saint Andrews Cross)
  • Alabama Basic Training Ribbon
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction Course, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, completed in 2000
  • Chemical Senior Leader Qualification, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri completed in 2000
  • United States Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania completed in 2003
Gordon attained the rank of Major General in 2011 and in July of 2017 Gov. Kay Ivey named Gordon the 42nd Adjutant General of the Alabama National Guard, and thus a member of her Cabinet.

“General Sheryl Gordon is a trailblazer and visionary leader,” Ivey said upon appointing Gordon. “She has had a distinguished military career spanning 33 years. I look forward to serving alongside her as she leads our National Guard troops in Alabama.”

As adjutant general, she advises Ivey on military affairs and is the commander of the Alabama Army and Air National Guard. The organization currently employs over than 12,000 citizen Soldiers and Airmen. 

The biggest challenge the Guard faces today: readiness.

“Readiness is personnel, training and equipment,” she told The Montgomery Advertiser. “Most people think that training is the focus of readiness, but from my perspective, personnel is the focus because if you don’t have the personnel, then your training plan can be great and wonderful, but if I don’t have anyone to train, it doesn’t make any difference.”

“My goal is to make sure that the soldiers and the airman of the Alabama National Guard are prepared for the wartime mission and the peace time mission,” she said. “Readiness is at the forefront of everything that we do, all the training that we do, and readiness takes many different forms.”

When the Montgomery Advertiser asked Gordon what she would say to young women entering the National Guard she said; “Keep your personal life personal; don’t date anyone in the unit; don’t discuss what you do on Friday night when you arrive to drill; always behave in a professional manner; and most importantly, to understand you can’t be ‘one of the guys’, because you’re not.”

“And, guys can resent you for wanting to be one of the guys, because I’ve heard that. For trying to hang out with the guys. A female officer is somewhat isolated, because there aren’t that many peers that you have, so you have to be pretty confident in yourself and your abilities.”

For her unrelenting devotion to the state of Alabama and her incredible accomplishments – Major General Sheryl Gordon, is undeniably a woman of influence.

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