FORT SNELLING, Minn. –
“A Soldier first,” an 88th Readiness Division officer sees herself as a “proud black American female.”
Those are the sentiments of Lt. Col. Lytelia Moss as she reflects on being an African American Soldier in the Army Reserve during February’s Black History Month.
She is the G3/5/7 chief of current operations. She’s also working as the deputy G3/5/7 and is temporarily serving as the G3. Moss received her commission as a logistics officer from the University of South Alabama through the ROTC program.
“Over the past 30-plus years of my service, I’ve served across all three components and have experienced isolation, racism, sexism, and myriad of other negative –isms,” Moss said. “But I have also experienced acceptance, comradery, support, and love. I feel like the Army Reserve is making strides to improve the working environment for minorities, but there are still some inequalities. We have a long way to go before diversity and inclusion become more than just buzz words. This starts with simply treating EVERYONE with dignity and respect.”
The Mobile, Ala., native doesn’t necessarily view herself as a positive example for other young African American people looking to possibly serve their country.
“I’m not sure if I’m a role model, but I definitely consider myself a mentor and I hope that I’m an inspiration,” Moss said. “My husband and I make it a priority to speak to and mentor our youth through our non-profit, ROTC cadets at colleges and universities, and young officers currently serving who we have met along our journey.
“We have a responsibility to show them that they have options, that they can be anything that they want to be, and that the military is a viable, beneficial, and rewarding way to serve their country. We are always honest with them about obstacles they may encounter being a minority in the military, but we also do our best to arm them with tools they will need to maneuver around or through those obstacles. I just hope that I have made it more plausible for young, black people to serve in the Army in the future,” Moss said.
You’re likely to find the pathway leading Moss in her work with black cadets and students quite interesting and inspiriting.
She said she met her husband 14 years ago while both served in Cadet Command. Moss was a professor of military science and recruiting operations officer at Vanderbilt University and her future spouse was the operations officer for the Army Reserve assistant chief of staff at Cadet Command.
Vanderbilt had satellite ROTC programs at nine different schools including three Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“We began mentoring all of the cadets in Vandy's program as well as those at Norfolk State University. We quickly discovered that there were financial, academic, and even fitness discrepancies between the minority students and their counterparts,” Moss said. “Thus, we began to offer them additional opportunities to research and learn military tactics and operations; how to seek additional funding for school, as well as, how to manage their future earnings; and workout sessions, which included swimming tips and coordination for lessons.
“Now that we’re no longer in Cadet Command, we use connections with friends and comrades who are assigned as cadre to schools or who have children in college to engage their students. This is different from our non-profit, the Law Enforcement Academy Prep,” Moss said. Known as LEAP, the nonprofit is still in the application phase of being designated a 501.c.3.
Moss continued, “Through our initial efforts years ago and through my husband's Ph.D. research, we decided that we were tired of standing by just witnessing the huge cultural disconnect between our black and brown youth and the police force.” She added that her husband is a military police officer and a former civilian police officer and Arkansas State Trooper.
The couple started the LEAP program while assigned at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2017. “We started mentoring and guiding young people between the ages of 13 and 19. We've had over 30 young people to join the program since its inception.” Moss said.
“From 2019- 2021, we offered over $9K of our personal funds and $2K in donated funds in scholarships to our high school seniors and our outstanding cadet, the recipient of the Lt. Col. Deitrich M. Jordan Scholarship. The award is in honor of our fallen USAR comrade and friend who succumbed to cancer in 2015,” Moss said. “We personally traveled with the kids and exposed them to colleges, military, legal, and law enforcement career opportunities, such as the North Carolina Supreme Court, the U.S. Navy Military Academy, college visits to Morehouse College in Atlanta, the Secret Service in D.C., etc.”
As a result, “two of the initial group of 16 cadets in LEAP are currently serving in the military – one in the Navy and the other in the Army – and four are in college. We opened the program to young ladies in 2020 and two of those four are on scholarships to HBCUs,” Moss said.
Moss regrets the fact that she and her husband haven’t been able to expand their efforts to mentor black youth in the Minneapolis area because of COVID and her husband’s job responsibilities.
“We do, however, continue to communicate with and support the young men and women that are a part of the LEAP family, as well as, young officers that are currently assigned all over the USAR and Regular Army,” Moss said.
Moss joins other relatives who’ve served in the military. Both of her maternal uncles wore Navy uniforms. Several of her cousins served in the Army and Navy, and three female cousins joined the Army after Moss.
“My family has always been supportive and proud of my service to this country,” Moss said. She added that being a dual-military couple “has created some challenges for our children over the years. But it has also made them more resilient and grateful.”