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NGCSU promotes first female brigade commander
Ashlie Shrewsbury has no trouble with her new position and nobody else better, either
Ashlie Shrewsbury has climbed the ranks and North Georgia College & State University to become the first female commander of the school’s Corps of Cadets.

DAHLONEGA — Cadet Col. Ashlie Shrewsbury wakes most mornings at 6:45 a.m. and changes into her gray shirt and black shorts like every other cadet at North Georgia College & State University.

She tucks her dirty blonde hair back neatly into a bun and needs no makeup to play up her big blue eyes. She meets the nearly 700 other cadets on the drill field and supervises student officers as they lead running formations and abdominal workouts.

As the sun starts to peek over the Dahlonega mountains, it is clear Shrewsbury is in charge. She is North Georgia College’s first female brigade commander to oversee the Corps of Cadets. For the first time in North Georgia’s 136-year history, all cadets report to a woman.

Leading a corps made up of about 630 men, including her fiance, Cadet Capt. Mackenzie Eason, and about 70 women has been an enthralling experience, Shrewsbury said.

She said she had to run faster, study harder and reach higher to stand out from the male-dominated pack.

“Every once in a while, you’ll find those peers with what I call barbaric or archaic ideas ... but as far as being the girl in the corps, it hasn’t been too difficult,” she said. “As far as the running, you just have to be determined to work harder to keep up.”

She cites her ‘no excuses’ attitude as the reason for her steady promotions.

“If you’re deciding to do something like this, don’t expect to be coddled,” she said of girls entering the corps. “Why would you want to be coddled? ... I don’t think that’s a good way to go through life. Stop playing that card. Do your best and be satisfied with your best. Don’t offer excuses from the get-go.”

The Taylorsville native said when she entered the Corps of Cadets in 2004, she already had enlisted with the Georgia National Guard, but had the same lowly cadet recruit ranking assigned to every first-year student. Five years and five promotions later, Shrewsbury is making history at North Georgia.

Shrewsbury’s top rank has been years in the making. The school had women in its first graduating class in 1878. In 1973, North Georgia College became the nation’s first senior military college to admit women, NGCSU spokeswoman Kate
Maine said.

Col. Tom Palmer, commandant at North Georgia, works with Shrewsbury in overseeing corps operations as cadets prepare for inspections, special ceremonies and events, such as the entire corps marching in the upcoming Gold Rush Days parade.

Palmer said when Shrewsbury was going through the review process this spring to become brigade commander, she stood out as the best candidate. Her gender is irrelevant, he said.

In her few months as brigade commander, Shrewsbury has implemented new drill assignments that have cadets practicing personnel and vehicle searches and room-clearing tactics that can be applied to real-world situations soldiers face in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“She’s a no-nonsense commander. She has a lot of people who work for her. She really has high standards and she doesn’t like to accept ‘no’ as an answer,” Palmer said. “She also, more than any commander I’ve had, is focused on academics with laser-sharp precision.”

Shrewsbury, who speaks Russian, Spanish and German, said she hopes to become a multilingual professor. A nomadic career in the military would be difficult for her, she said, since her fiance aims for a career in the U.S. Army.

Although she doesn’t intend to stay in her Army boots, the National Guard trained her as a Russian linguist at the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif., and as an interrogator at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.

“Interrogation, I love it. I enjoy it, I’m good at it, but it came as a by product of accepting a scholarship and studying Russian,” she said.

Operations Officer Caitlyn French, 22, is in her fifth year at NGCSU. She, like most cadets, respects Shrewsbury’s leadership and her gender isn’t a factor.

“I think they’re reacting very well,” French said of the Corps of Cadets. “It was a challenge in the beginning because it’s something that’s completely new, and something new for an organization that’s been around as long as this one has, it’s always a challenge.”

But cadets must agree Shrewsbury has their best interests at heart, she said.

“She’s not a pushover, for lack of a more politically correct term,” French said. “... She’s not afraid to stand up to her bosses and say, sir, ‘I don’t think that’s the best decision,’ and she knows how to back it up.”