Ala. Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon talks with others at a retirement party for her at Guard headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., on Sept. 27. (Dave Martin / AP)
MONTGOMERY, ALA. — Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon has retired after a 32-year career in the Alabama Army National Guard during which she became the first and still only woman general in the organization’s history.
She also was one of only two women major generals in the Army Guard nationally and retired as the assistant adjutant general for the Alabama Guard, which is the primary adviser to the Alabama Guard’s top officer.
The 56-year-old Gordon, who lives on Lake Martin and grew up in Selma, has also retired from a long career as a teacher and administrator at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City.
Gordon said when she joined the Guard three decades ago, she had no idea she would become the state’s first woman general.
“It was not in my thought process. I was just hoping to make it to lieutenant colonel,” Gordon told The Associated Press. “I think pretty much every officer looks at it that way.”
“To be able to reach the top of the pyramid is not something you feel you can accomplish,” Gordon said.
She said by calling it a career, she hopes she is clearing the way for promotion opportunities for others. A retirement party for Gordon was held Friday afternoon at the Guard’s headquarters in Montgomery.
She said she is looking forward to spending her retirement years sitting by the lake and “and not have worry about going to drill.” Drill is what most members of the Guard call their two days of service every month.
Alabama Adjutant General Perry Smith praised Gordon’s achievements.
“Her real mark on the National Guard will be the impact she has had on young soldiers throughout her career,” Smith said.
Gordon said there are similarities in the role she played as a Guard officer and what she did in her civilian job, trying to be a teacher in both.
Asked if she was treated differently as a leader and commander because she was a woman, she said, “Whenever I would go into a new a new job, at first they would respond to me as a woman. Later they would respond to me as a soldier. They mostly wanted to know if I was competent.
“I like to think I have made peace with my decision to retire and can walk away without crying. I will try not to cry, but I don’t know if I will be successful.”