VICKSBURG, Miss.— On August 7, 2022, Lavell Brown Jr., an employee of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Mississippi Army National Guard and the National Guard of the United States after completing Officer Candidate School (OCS).
Brown attributes his successful completion of the program to the steadfast support he received from his ERDC team members, as it gave him the freedom to concentrate on the extensive requirements of OCS.
In 2021, then Sgt. Brown, who works as a systems accountant with ERDC’s accounting reports and customer service team, decided to fulfill a lifelong goal and make the transition from enlisted to officer.
“Becoming an officer is something I have wanted for a long time,” he said. “Everything aligned with my family and my work support system to reach this goal. The main reason I wanted to become an officer was to be a bigger influence and mentor younger soldiers.”
Brown chose to go through the OCS at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The option afforded him the opportunity to continue working at ERDC while completing the OCS requirements during unit training assemblies or drill weekends.
His extensive training began at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and continued at Camp Shelby. The training elements consisted of seven written exams; a six-, nine- and 12-mile ruck march; a four-mile run; coordinated weekly class conference calls; completion of class treasurer duties and receiving a satisfactory or higher rating in leadership while conducting squad training exercises.
Brown stated that the support he received from his team at ERDC gave him the freedom to concentrate on the training requirements while he was away. “Each time I let my ERDC team know I needed to be away at training, I received instant responses letting me know that there was no need to worry and that they supported me,” said Brown.
“Lavell has always been an inspiration to those who work with him, and that fact became more evident over the last year,” said Jennifer Maher, ERDC finance and accounting officer. “He diligently worked to complete OCS while successfully balancing a family and a full workload. We are lucky to have Lavell at ERDC, and I couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments.”
Kimberly Ignasiak, lead of the ERDC accounting reports and customer service team and Brown’s supervisor, said when Lavell was away for his training, the team stepped up to make sure his duties were covered.
“The team didn’t need to be asked as they supported what Lavell was doing,” said Ignasiak. “We couldn’t be any prouder of him for reaching his goal as we also commend his service to our country.”
There were a couple of times Brown stated he had doubts, especially in certain segments of phase 1 and phase 2 of training. “It was not a straight road to the finish line,” said Brown “There were times when quitting crossed my mind. I had to tell myself that I knew I was almost there.”
The Adjutant General of Mississippi, Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, presented Brown with his diploma from OCS as a second lieutenant on August 7, 2022. Brown also received a Commander’s Award for perseverance, determination and self-improvement.
“There is no better time than now to go after your dreams — especially if you have the support system,” said Brown. “That is exactly where I found myself a year ago. I am thankful for my wife and my ERDC supervisor; they both pushed me to do what I wanted to do. “
Brown has accepted a position within the 1/204th Air Defense Artillery Unit in Forest, Mississippi, and will continue to work in his civilian role as a systems accountant for ERDC Resource Management.