JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Growing up playing sports and being a part of the rowing team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Capt. Christina Payne has always enjoyed being a team player. But just being another team member wasn't her fate as she makes her mark on the Army.
"When I was in my captain's career course I was told I didn't have to pay attention because females only work staff positions," said Payne, a native of Virginia Beach, Va. "It's great to see the statement wasn't true and females are being provided more opportunities."
Payne is the first female commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade. She was able to earn this position through hard work and a new policy the Department of Defense released May 14 that opened up 14,000 combat-related jobs to females.
"I don't look at it as a gender position," Payne said. " I look at it as a job that the Army needed to fill and anyone could fill it."
She was a part of UNC's Reserve Officer Training Program and saw the military as a way to establish a stable career.
"I was 21 years old when I joined and I needed the guidance and structure the military provides," said Payne.
Payne began her career in 2006 as a fire direction officer at Fort Sill, Okla., and has deployed twice to Kuwait as a training officer working with Army Central Command's training and exercises section.
Payne, now a seven-year veteran, expressed that even though she is part of a new generation of female Soldiers, the unit has made her feel like a member of the team.
Now Payne is making an impact on the unit since taking command less than a month ago.
"Since she got here the morale has went up and she has brought more life to the unit," said Spc. Chance Whittaker, training room noncommissioned officer. "Across the board everyone has enjoyed having her as a commander."
As the training room NCO, Whittaker works closely with his new commander and expressed that he is impressed by the way that she speaks her mind and makes her presence known in the commonly male-dominated environment.
Not only is he impressed by his commander's performance but her respect for the Soldiers.
"She's easy to talk to and respectful to everyone," he said.
Payne works alongside 1st Sgt. Wallace Doss, a 20-year veteran, welcomes the policy change.
"I never thought I would see the day," said Wallace, a native of Tarboro, N.C. "Before my last unit I never worked with females and didn't really want to. But my last commander was a hard charger and she helped me see things in a new light."
Payne looks forward to the future of her career but never looks too far ahead as she wishes to continue to progress.
"I look forward to more opportunities and I'm ready to take full advantage of them," Payne said.
Wallace along with Payne has been in the unit about the same amount of time and explained the he had expectations prior to meeting her and they have been met since he's worked with her.
"I was expecting someone high speed," Wallace said. "She's defiantly leading the way."
When asked about how he felt about Payne and her effectiveness as a commander he replied, "The Army has a keeper."
Payne has made her mark on her battery as the first female commander and sets a tone for future female leaders in the Army.
"It's neat to see the progression the Army is making and to know that there are more opportunities to come for females younger than me."