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Minnesota National Guard
Former Guardsman Continues to Lead, Mentor

MSG Alexander MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Throughout a military career that spanned several decades, retired Army Master Sgt. Ivy Alexander successfully managed the many challenges of deployments, a civilian career and raising a family.

Alexander attributes some of her career success to the skills she developed as an Army paralegal specialist, where her ability to conduct thorough research on any given issue was invaluable to the commanders and judge advocates she supported.

At the time she retired, Alexander was the chief paralegal for the 34th Infantry Division Office of the Staff Judge Advocate.
 "The Army way is to lead by example," Alexander said. "I can't just speak something and not live it."

Professionalism, research skills and attention to detail, she says, are also important in her current position as a loan underwriter and processor specializing in corporate relocations for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

People who know her well describe her as a leader and a mentor to others, in every setting.

At Wells Fargo, she is frequently assigned as a mentor to newly-hired employees.

"Not unlike how we treat new Soldiers that arrive in our units, we quickly incorporate new team members into our culture and give them the life lines to be successful," said John Penshorn, who is a site leader for Wells Fargo as well as an officer in the Minnesota Army National Guard. "As one of our most experienced employees, Ivy is continually called upon to be the go-to person for our site."

Penshorn added that Alexander displays many of the qualities espoused by the Noncommissioned Officer Corps in the NCO Creed.

"No one is more professional," he said.

She lives by these values professionally as well as in her role as a church elder at River of Life Church in Minneapolis. Within a year or two of joining the congregation, she had taken on a leadership role.

Since 2008, Alexander has been active in one of her church's outreach ministries, leading services two Sundays of every month at the women's correctional facility in Shakopee.

"I'm encouraged by these women," Alexander said of her experiences there. "It's awesome to be able to go into the prison and speak to the women about how to get their life back on track."

Alexander believes it is important for people to live by their values at all times, whether they are military Service members in uniform or as private citizens, because people are always observing one another.

"I've had women approach me in different places, and they're like, 'I know you from somewhere,'" Alexander said.

"And then when they realize it, they come closer and whisper, 'you came to the prison...'"

Some of them remain in the local area and become members of the church after serving their sentences.

"We just continue to mentor them," Alexander said.

Reflecting on her time in uniform, Alexander is grateful that she had the support of her family - she and her husband now have five children and seven grandchildren - as well as what she calls her "Guard family."

Just before Alexander was deployed to Bosnia in 2003, she completed a lifelong goal of earning her bachelor's degree.

While she was gone, her husband, Dwight, was invited by Metropolitan State University to stand in for her and walk across the stage to accept her diploma during commencement.

Alexander and her husband have been married for 26 years and together they own and operate Smoke in the Pit, a small but critically-acclaimed barbecue restaurant in Minneapolis.

She said there were times when she would work a full day at Wells Fargo, then help out at the restaurant until closing, go to Guard drill that weekend, and finally fulfill her church commitments on Sunday.

At times, she thought, "I can't do this anymore."

But her family and chain of command in the Red Bull division were always supportive and helpful.

"If I did it all over again, I would definitely join the military," Alexander said.

By Maj. Scott Ingalsbe
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs
Feb. 12, 2016

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