WOODSTOCK, Va. -- The first woman chosen to lead a Virginia National Guard infantry company said it felt "a bit surreal" when she formally took command during a ceremony Saturday.
Capt. Candice Bowen takes over the Woodstock-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Capt. Timothy England.
“I honestly am just ready to take charge of the company and lead my soldiers," Bowen said.
Bowen, a self-proclaimed military brat who was born in Germany and now lives in Northern Virginia, graduated U.S. Army’s Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning in Georgia.
Before that Bowen graduated from Penn State where she earned her commission. She later deployed to Qatar with 3rd Battalion in 2016 and volunteered for a follow-on assignment with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Afghanistan where she was earned the Combat Action Badge.
Bowen's father, a retired Army sergeant major, pinned a blue infantry cord to her uniform, during the ceremony.
“Today marks a special moment in the Virginia Army National Guard history as we welcome the first female infantry company commander, a selection based on merit with no special treatment and an officer who has demonstrated the absolute ability to lead Soldiers in close combat," Col. Joseph DiNonno, commander of the 116th IBCT, said. "I take special pride in seeing this change of command and knowing what we celebrate as a first today will be commonplace tomorrow.”
Bowen offered this advice to other women considering a military career.
“Do it. Just jump in there. Do it aggressively, enjoy it and have fun," Bowen 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.”
"The Winchester-based 3rd Battalion is known as the 'Normandy Battalion' because of the unit’s lineage tracing back to the Soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1945 and helped usher in the defeat of Nazi forces and end World War II," Virginia Army National Guard officials said. "The battalion also has units in Harrisonburg, Leesburg and Woodstock."