Before she joined the Army Reserve, Samonia Clemons lacked the confidence to fully live her life. She was so shy, she told Glamour, that she was afraid to talk to strangers.
But in order to graduate from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), Lincoln University, MO, Clemons had to pass the 30-day Leaders Development Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, a training exercise designed to help soldiers develop leadership skills, as well as confidence on and off the battlefield. The course requires its cadets to—among other training modules—execute various battle plans and walk across a tightrope hung high in the air.
Unable to pull the proverbial trigger on battle plans, Clemons failed the program. “That was, like, the only thing that was stopping me from graduating—just confidence,” Clemons says.
It was a devastating blow. “I cried, a lot,” she says.
A year later, Clemons—who’s afraid of heights—retook the course. It wasn’t necessarily any easier, she says. In fact, it took her six tries to work up the gumption to walk across that rope. But she made it across, passed the leadership course, and became a second lieutenant in 2009.
Since then, she’s climbed the ranks in the Army Reserve: Today, after recently being promoted from captain, she’s Maj. Samonia Clemons (648th Regional Support Group, Military Intelligence Readiness Command (MIRC)). And since 2014, she’s worked as a Public Affairs Officer with the Army Reserve—a role that sees her taking photos, writing news stories, conducting media training, offering communications guidance to senior officers within organization and regularly chatting up strangers.
Clemons says she initially anticipated bowing out of the Army Reserve when her standard six-year contract expired, but as that time drew closer, she changed her mind.
“There were a lot of challenges along the way,” she says of her initial feelings, “and six years felt like a long time.”
But over the course of those six years she saw so much personal improvement that she couldn’t imagine leaving. Now, “Who knows where I’ll stop?” she asks.
In her civilian job, Clemons works as a certified clinical pharmacy technician, which requires her to communicate quickly and reliably with doctors and patients. It’s work she does with ease—work she says she might not be able to do without the leadership training she receives from the Army Reserve.
Looking back on how she’s grown—how she’s become more confident and a more effective communicator—Clemons says that she wants others to take whatever leaps of faith they need to in order to more fully live their lives. “Never give up on your dreams,” she says. “Just go for it. Even if you don’t feel confident … just go for it anyway. If others can do it, then you can.”
In fact, watching others persevere in the Army Reserve was one thing that Clemons says helped her the most. Take that tightrope that took her six tries to walk across: Before she completed that task, she watched her peers fight their fears and make it safely to the other side.
“If you see others doing the things that you’re scared to do, you just have to get out there and do it,” Clemons says. “It could take you 1,000 tries before you are actually able to do it. But in the end, you can show yourself that you did it.” And that, she says, is what really counts.