EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island National Guard has its first Black colonel.

Sharon Harmon attained the rank of colonel at a promotion ceremony Saturday at the Joint Force Headquarters, Camp Fogarty, in East Greenwich, the National Guard said in a statement.

“I pray that my promotion is only the starting point for other African Americans after me,” Col. Harmon said in front of family, friends, colleagues and elected officials, including Gov. Dan McKee.

Harmon, a Woonsocket resident, enlisted as an administrative clerk for 455th General Hospital Army Reserve Unit in Providence in 1985 and in 1993, transferred to the National Guard to attend Officer Candidate School.

She has served in various capacities with the National Guard and is currently state Family Program Director, overseeing programs that provide resources to guard members and their families during and after deployments.

Harmon has served in Afghanistan, and earned several awards including a Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal.

She is a graduate of Newberry (South Carolina) High School, Rhode Island College and Touro University, and in 2020 earned a master’s in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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