February is a special time of year in which America reflects on the profound things African-American men and women have accomplished over the years. Initially, in 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed Black History Week in the second week of each February. Subsequently, Black History Month was celebrated for the first time in 1970 at Kent State University. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month during America’s Bicentennial celebration.
Over the decades, the achievements in fields of education, science, politics, religion, medicine, technology and other genres have been noted. One of the most admirable careers is that of men and women with a distinguished and honorable military background. Excellent men and women in history include the Tuskegee Airmen, Maj. Alexander Thomas Augusta, Harriet M. Waddy, Lemuel Haynes, Col. Adele E. Hodges, Gen. Colin Powell and countless others.
But today, as we celebrate Black History Month, we do so with newfound meaning and renewed expectations. We spotlight two military women who stand on the shoulders of these historic giants. As they shatter glass ceilings and defy society’s norms and expectations, we’ve noticed that these gentle ladies don’t just check off one box in the career category. Nonconformists, they are magnificently multifaceted, multitalented and multidisciplinary. And with their exceptional military training, they moved into their subsequent civilian careers with a commitment to honoring the traditions of continuing to be the best and always focusing on serving mankind.
Tonya P. Anderson
Pastor, state senator and military reservist
“The leadership training, organizational training, NCO courses, professional development courses and hands-on training I received in the military all helped to transform my human potential into effective performances that would prepare me to be the leader I am today."
A warm, kind, and gentle person, Tonya has spent her lifetime serving her God and church members, adulthood serving her country, and the last decade serving constituents of her district. In 2012, she retired honorably, as a TSGT, from the United States Air Force Reserve after more than 21 years of service. An ordained minister, she and her husband Houston co-pastor Stronghold Christian Church East. Formerly a mayor of Lithonia, Ga., she now represents Georgia’s 43rd District as state senator. She has served as the chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, as well as worked on the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and the Working Families Caucus.
A member of American Legion Post 77, she began her military career, while a sophomore in college at Alabama State University by enlisting in the Air Force Reserve in 1990 at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Ala. After becoming a reservist, she was assigned to the Logistics Readiness Squadron as a supply troop for 10 years. She cross-trained and became a chaplain assistant. She also held three leadership positions that included serving on the NCOIC Senior Leadership Team, Spiritual Care/Chaplain Liaison and peer group mentor. Currently, she is a major in the Civil Air Patrol of Georgia's Legislative Unit 999.
Devoutly dedicated to her community, Tonya is a member of many local and national organizations such as Women in Government, NCNW, NAACP, 100 Black Women, Junior League, Senior Connections and several nonprofit boards. She holds a degree in business administration with an emphasis in management from Alabama State University, as well as a master of divinity from Luther Rice University. In April 2018, she earned a humanitarian honorary doctorate degree from the Global International Alliance.
Dr. Bernetta Jones
Educator, military officer and doctorate in education leadership
“I attribute much of my success in the civilian sector to my military leadership training. Leadership principles, concepts and experiences learned as an Army officer influenced and shaped my style of management as an educator more than other training I’ve received.”
Having an amazing spine of steel tempered with a loving heart of gold, Dr. Bernetta Jones, a spirited, outgoing, friendly and motivating educator is of the firm belief that all children can learn if teachers begin where children are and work vigorously to get them where they need to be. As a former principal and now Region V superintendent, Bernetta has a wonderful reputation for stretching her staff far beyond their comfort zone by encouraging them to be engaged in an honest conversation about data, standards, good old-fashioned teaching, and nurturing of students.
Before beginning her illustrious career as an educator, her equally distinguished profession was that of a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. She received her regular Army commission through ROTC at Fort Valley State University. Assignments included public affairs, 3rd ROTC Region, military Intelligence officer training, Fort Huachuca; platoon leader, 101st Military Intelligence Battalion and company executive officer. Deployed and served with the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan.; she is a Desert Storm veteran. Bernetta served as a public affairs officer and a company executive officer. Retiring as a captain, she left active duty in 1992. She served as an Individual Ready Reserve officer until 1999.
Bernetta has experienced great success as a civilian leader. She attributes her success to “taking care of her troops and operating as 'we.'" She embodies the meaning of modeling true leadership. A very important leadership or life lesson she learned as an Army officer is “take care of your troops” and they’ll take care of you. Just get the mission done. She learned from LTC Bill Moore that as the leader, you take the heat and the responsibility when the mission fails - even when it’s not your fault. Military leaders understand and treasure the power of “WE”!
In her current position of Region V superintendent in the DeKalb County School System, she is responsible for the instructional, operational and financial effectiveness of the 25 schools and principals for whom she provides oversight. Bernetta is a member of several professional and public service organizations, including the National and the Georgia Association of Educators, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the DeKalb Association of School Administrators, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. As the super-proud mom of Taylor, she teaches her daughter to live by the creed, “I am extraordinary, because God made me that way!”
These profiles are a varied version of an article originally featured in The Ashro Blog entitled “12 African American SHEroes”. Please click on this link to view the EXCLUSIVE in its entirety: https://www.ashro.com/blog/ashro-women/stories/african-american-heroines.
Leslie E. Royal is an international freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in ESSENCE, FORTUNE.com, Upscale, Black Enterprise, Upscale Living Magazine, and The Ashro Blog. She is the author of two books: "Leslie Lane The Book!: Your One Stop Internet Resource Guide to Links for Jobs, Inspiration, Discounts, FREE Stuff, Scholarships, Travel & More" ($14.95), and "How to Write and Self-Publish Your Book for FREE with Amazon’s KDP: An Easy Way to Complete Your Manuscript in Seven Stress-Free Steps" (Leslie’s Lane Inc.) ($9.95). You can follow Leslie on Instagram and other social media @LesliesLane.