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NEWS | May 9, 2024

Unit's first female African-American commander overseas joins African Lion 2024

By 1st Lt. Logan Whorton U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa

 The task of running a mayor cell, the headquarters for a military installation, during a training exercise involves many moving parts: keeping track of all movements in and out of the camp; coordinating food, laundry, bathrooms and lodging for exercise participants; resolving any issues with logistics; and much more. Now, imagine leading all of that in a country where you don’t speak the language and where things can change in a moment’s notice.

With a bit of trepidation, U.S. Army Capt. Markia “Kia” Hobbs, commander of the 642nd Regional Support Group (642nd RSG), Headquarters and Headquarters Company, jumped into that task at Ben Ghilouf Training Area (BGTA) in Tunisia during African Lion 2024 (AL24).

“It was very different for me,” Hobbs said. “When I was first brought into the exercise they said, ‘Commander, this is what you’re going to be doing, this is how it’s going to be, this is what I need you to do.’ So immediately my thoughts were racing.”

To put the assignment in perspective, Hobbs joined nearly 2,500 other participants in the Tunisian portion of AL24. Overall, this year’s exercise brings together approximately 8,100 multinational partners from 27 nations spread across Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia, from April 19 to May 31. The mission: build interoperability between partners and strengthen readiness in support of future operations.

But there was something else command leadership told her that motivated her to push past the fears: Hobbs would be the first African-American female to lead the 642nd RSG in its first overseas mission in over a decade.

Before taking command, Hobbs served as a human resources officer in the positions of personnel and administration officer and of platoon leader. She was commissioned as an Army Reserve officer through the ROTC program at the University of South Carolina in 2019 and attended battle assemblies with the 642nd RSG in Decatur, Georgia, prior to commissioning.

“Being a commander is like being a CEO,” Hobbs said. “Like having your own business, you’re able to manage it, and you have people who fall under you to delegate the work and make sure that everything that is asked actually gets done.”

AL24 offered the opportunity for the 642nd RSG and other participating units to practice setting the theater for current operations and contingencies by improving conditions to ensure necessary access, critical infrastructure and partner nation support.

In her role as mayor cell commander of BGTA, Hobbs can be difficult to track down. She might be out discussing a logistics solution with Tunisian contractors in the dining facility, meeting with the senior ranking officer of BGTA in his headquarters, or running around the camp ensuring that everyone has what they need to complete their missions.

“I’m kind of like the middleman between the actual exercise and the Tunisians,” Hobbs explained. “We’re basically building a comradery between the U.S. and Tunisian Army.”

As part of the exercise, Hobbs also collaborates with units from the U.S. National Guard, Army Reserve and Marines — all who look to her team to help coordinate logistics, personnel movements and welfare at the training area.

But luckily, Hobbs is no newcomer to juggling multiple roles at once.

“On the civilian side, I’m actually a stay-at-home mom,” Hobbs said, “and I have three businesses that my husband and I own.”

Hobbs initially felt different among the mostly male leadership at BGTA. But she started to learn some French and connected culturally with her Tunisian counterparts. She started wearing a head covering to show respect for the culture and also as protection from the sandstorms of the Tunisian desert.

“Just working with the contractors, when they see me they call me by my first name,” Hobbs said.

At first, she felt the Tunisian women contractors were hesitant to connect with her. However, she continued reaching out and eventually came to share hugs and compliments with them in their morning greetings at the dining facility or laundry pickup spot.

“That just warmed my heart,” Hobbs said. “I’m a people person, and I love to see people smile.”