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By SARAH BEACH
Trimble Banner Intern
Sgt. Maj. Pat Copas knows the importance of family.
As the first member of her family to join the Kentucky National Guard in 1981, she influenced her two sisters, Tammy Long and Edith Bledsoe, to join two weeks afterward.
Now, more than 31 years later, she has achieved the rank of sergeant major — one of the most elite positions in the Guard. Copas achieved this position Feb. 11, 2011.
She is one of only two women in Kentucky who currently hold this post, according to a Kentucky National Guard news release. There are five women total who have held it, and only 12 sergeants major in the Guard. For a female soldier, this is significant, and Copas said she is extremely proud of this achievement.
Copas was raised in Trimble County by her foster parents, Christine and Elmer Quire. Their daughter is Mary Ann Fisher, who retired from teaching in Trimble County in 2007. Copas is a 1981 graduate of Trimble County High School.
Fisher’s husband, Greg, was in the military for years and helped inspire Copas to join.
She also had mentors in the Guard who were already sergeants major and inspired her to reach that level of success. In turn, Copas now mentors others to follow in her footsteps.
“Sgt. Maj. Copas is a mentor to our junior enlisted soldiers and remains an advocate for doing what is right,” State Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory D. Armstrong said in a Kentucky National Guard news release. He also said that he would challenge “enlisted soldiers to set a personal goal that one day will mirror this distinction.”
Copas said that to be a successful leader, a person needs to mentor others, take care of them and guide them. Now her nephew, Zachary Downs, is in the Guard as well. He has been in the Guard for 10 years, seven of those full-time.
Copas would recommend the Guard to young people wanting a good career and a good way to get an education. The Guard teaches values such as discipline, self-confidence and how to “cope with life.”
Most importantly, the Guard will allow a person to remain close to family, as opposed to active duty. For those who like to travel, active duty may be a good option, but Copas has always preferred the National Guard because it allows for “no going away” from family members and friends.
Copas has always served at her current station in Frankfort. Though she has had many years of training, she believes it was absolutely worth it and really enjoys what she does. She received her certification from the Sergeant Major Academy through a distance-learning program, which took eighteen months, in February 2010. It also required a two-week residency program.
Unlike many who join the National Guard, Copas serves as a full-time member. Her job at Joint Force Headquarters places her in a supervising position above the 7,200 troops in Kentucky. Joint Force Headquarters is responsible for the training of each of the soldiers under its jurisdiction.