For Pamela Y. Smith, being a servant leader has always been a priority. The combat veteran and retired master sergeant with 23 years of military service under her belt continues to serve as a Department of the Army civilian in the Logistics Department at Fort Rucker’s Lyster Army Health Clinic.

A lifetime member and Past Junior Vice and Past Senior Vice Commander of the John Wiley Brock Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6683 in Enterprise, Smith was named Veteran of the Year in 2018 during the Veterans Tribute Ceremony at the Enterprise Civic Center.

Smith serves also as the treasurer of the Fort Rucker Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club. “I am honored to be part of an esteemed and first class group of men and women, spreading the word of the rich history of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Buffalo soldiers and giving back to the community,” she said.

The National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Clubs—NABSTMC—began with a dream of Ken 'Dream Maker' Thomas, Smith explained. The name Buffalo Soldiers was initially selected to pay homage to and ensure the legacy of African American military contributions in the post Civil War era.

“I am proud of my ‘Colors’ and the rich history they represent,” said Smith, referring to the insignia or “patches’ worn by motorcycle club members on vests to identify club membership. “We are very engaged in the community and helping and supporting soldiers and veterans.”

A native of Anderson, S.C., Smith joined the military in 1992. “I wanted to go to college but couldn't afford it,” she recalled. “My best friend and I were watching TV when the ‘Be all you can be in the Army’ commercial came on. The next day we called a recruiter to enlist under the Buddy program. We both talked to the recruiter. I was in one office and she in another office.

“When we came out I had signed a contract but she didn't. What a best friend, right?” she asked with a smile.

Smith completed basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. and advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga. She served first as a 31L Wire Installer. “As a wire installer, we were called Cable Dogs. I enjoyed the signal field because I was able learn everything in the signal realm. I went from working as a wire installer to being a switch operator. We stayed in the field for days,” Smith said. “We were constantly deploying to different exercises during my signal military career.

“And that military cadence, ‘If you want to be signal you got to be thin,’ they meant it,” Smith said. “I think we ran to every castle in Germany when I was stationed there and when I arrived at Fort Campbell, we would run four miles every day for PT.”

After her first assignment to Darmstadt Germany with the 440th Signal Battalion until 1994, Smith also served with the 501st Signal Battalion, Fort Campbell, Ky. until 1996; the 16th Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas until 1999; the 1st Brigade, Fort Riley, Kan. until 2002; the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii until 2005; the 164th Battalion, Fort Knox, Ky., until 2008; the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., until 2012; and the 1st Aviation Brigade at Fort Rucker until 2015 when she retired. The combat veteran deployed to Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

During her military career spanning more than two decades, Smith attended the Advance Non Commissioned Course, Air Assault, Basic Non Commissioned Course, Combat Life Savers Course, Master Fitness Training Course, and Primary Leaders Development Course.

Smith’s military awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Campaign Star, Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Air Assault Badge, Basic Marksmanship Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, Career Counselor Badge, Audie Murphy and Order of the Spur.

In 2000 Smith was reclassified as a 79S4R Career Counselor. “While stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, I was the Retention Non Commissioned Officer responsible for talking to soldiers about their military career and staying in the Army,” Smith said. “I really enjoyed it and I was good at it.”

The Senior Career Counselor for her brigade and the Brigade Commander approached her about becoming a career counselor. “I said yes, they submitted my packet, I was approved and selected. I did my schooling at Fort Jackson, S.C.”

Smith also earned a bachelor’s degree online in Business Management with Trident University.

“I really enjoyed being a career counselor. Being able to talk to soldiers about their military career, their plans and desires and being able to help them and their families achieve their goals was a joy to me,” Smith said. “It was such a humbling experience knowing that you are helping build our military forces with the best to protect and serve our country.

“Each time I talked to a soldier and their spouse, I would put myself in their shoes to make sure they were making a decision that best fits and benefits them. I loved helping guide soldiers to soar above their expectations and believe that all goals are attainable,” Smith said. “Just to see the smiles on their faces when they reenlisted in the Army and receive that big bonus or ‘reclassed’ into another MOS or when they decide to transition into the Reserves was such a beautiful thing to be a part of their life changing moment. I truly enjoyed being a career counselor.”

Calling it “one of the hardest training I’ve done during my military career,” Smith said that among her most memorable experiences was “earning her spurs” while stationed at Fort Knox, Ky. “How I was able to receive my 16th United States Cavalry Order of the Spur is a funny story,” she said. “Three of my female friends had received a copy of the memorandum about the ‘Spur Ride.’ I told them we could not do it because it was for male soldiers only.” Her friend said that no gender requirement was listed on the memorandum and would not let the subject of participating drop. “I laughed and said, ‘Girl, we’re getting old, we have kids and aches and pains’ but we all agreed to do it.”

When the female soldiers arrived for the Spur Ride, the leaders tried to discourage them from participating in the traditionally all-male event. “Boy did that fuel me. I was determined to make it even if it killed me,” Smith recalled. “We started with the physical training test. I made it but my friends didn’t. “In the end, I was the only female alongside all those male soldiers and received my spurs April 27, 2007.

I was so excited but was in too much pain to enjoy it,” she said adding with a laugh, “Epsom salt was my best friend as soon as I got home.”

Having served the majority of her military career as a single parent, until marrying in 2009, Smith credits her family for their support. “I thank my daughter, Erykah Kipf, for loving me, supporting me and never complaining every time I had to train, deploy and move her all over the country,” Smith said. “She was my rock and I am so proud of her and her accomplishments. I also would like to thank my husband—retired Command Sgt. Maj. Otis Smith Jr.—for his love and support and keeping me grounded with words of wisdom.

“They say never look back, keep moving forward,” Smith said shaking her head and smiling. “But sometimes I do stop and look back for a brief second—and smile and giggle.

“Hello, Beautiful,” is Smith’s trademark greeting to women. “I do this because a lot of women are not told they are beautiful or they don’t think they are beautiful. We, as women, do not complement each other and uplift each other as we should and with all things you have to start with yourself to make change,” Smith explained. “So I start with me telling every woman I meet, ‘Hello, Beautiful’ and they smile. Hopefully she will start believing it and saying it to other women and it keeps growing from there.”

She also adds the words, “You control your own destiny. Don’t let anyone steal your joy,” to her signature block. “So many people let other people’s moods and attitudes change their mood and attitude,” Smith said. “You should not let anyone control how you feel or your journey in life. Those words are a reminder that the power is all yours and you control it.

“I love God, spending time with my family, spreading the word of the rich history of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers and giving back to the community,” Smith added. “God is my rock and my fortress. He leads and guides me.

“I had a great successful military career and wouldn’t change a thing about it. I will treasure and hold it close to my heart forever and if I had a chance to do it all over again, I definitely would,” Smith said. “I thank God for blessing me with a great military career and keeping me throughout my military career—and presently.”

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