WOODSTOCK, Va. — Virginia National Guard welcomed their first infantry company commander on Saturday.
Capt. Candice Bowen became the first female to take command of a Virginia National Guard infantry company. Bowen took command of the Woodstock-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Capt. Timothy England.
“It feels a bit surreal,” Bowen said. “I honestly am just ready to take charge of the company and lead my Soldiers.”
Bowen’s advice to other female Soldiers considering serving in infantry units: “Do it. Just jump in there. Do it aggressively, enjoy it and have fun. 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.”
Bowen became the VNG’s first female infantry officer when she graduated U.S. Army’s Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course in 2019 at Fort Benning.
“It is important to recognize progress and success where we find it in our organizations both as encouragement for those who forge it but equally as an example for others to follow and as affirmation of the values we collectively hold,” said Col. Joseph DiNonno, commander of the 116th IBCT. “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. I take special pride in seeing this change of command and knowing what we celebrate as a first today will be commonplace tomorrow.”
Bowen graduated and earned her commission from Penn State. She’d originally branched military police, but a drawn down of military police forces in Virginia left her looking for other opportunities. She deployed to Qatar with 3rd Battalion in 2016. She then volunteered for a follow on assignment with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Afghanistan where she was earned the Combat Action Badge.
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. The battalion also has units in Harrisonburg, Leesburg and Woodstock.