It's 4:30 a.m. on Monday.
First Sergeant Daniella Newbill is wide awake. The first thing she sees when she opens her eyes are the familiar words found in Philippians 4:13 written on the dry erase board next to her bed - "I am able to do ALL things through Him who strengthens me." (HCSB) This is the promise that has gotten her through the long days before and it's a reminder that no matter what she faces on this day, she can handle it with His strength.
Even though it's still dark outside, she laces up her tennis shoes and dashes out to her favorite hilly road for a 30-minute, 3 mile run. As the fresh air hits her face, she is invigorated by her warm-up and then goes to the gym to lift weights. At 5:30 a.m., physical training for her entire unit begins. She dresses in her training gear not because she is obligated to participate in the training, but because she is dedicated to being an example to the those under her command.
If she sees someone struggling during their run, she jumps in and runs next to them, all the while telling them, "You can do this!" If she sees one of the younger students struggling to finish their sit-ups or push-ups, she gets on the ground next to them and does their last set with them.
Then Daniella heads to work at Troy University (TU) as a Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. With 75 cadets in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) under her care, she is responsible for managing payroll, handling travel documents, creating orders, securing scholarships, providing career counseling and tracking their academic and military progress, as well as teaching some classes.
After the work day ends, Daniella does a Crossfit workout or a short run, followed by homework for her Master's Degree and then she spends time talking to her family on the phone.
Her husband, Monte, and three sons are at their home in Huntsville, AL, holding down the fort when she has to be away during the week working at TU. She also has drill weekends when she has to serve at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, AL. And although it is tough being away from her family, she says the strength to keep striving for her goals comes from a supernatural source.
"Christ has continuously given me strength to endure day to day and emotional situations," said Daniella. "Reflecting on my husband and my children also keeps me focused on my job and helps me push through tough days."
Daniella joined the Air National Guard 15 years ago and has never regretted her decision. Travel and education were incentives but her top priority was to serve her country and be a part of the protection of American and the American People.
Daniella admits that being away from her family is her greatest challenge about being in the Air Force. "Sometimes military duty causes me to be away from my sons and with that separation, I never want them to think that because I am physically not there with them, my love will not be there. I want them to know that my love for them is not affected by the distance between us, it only makes my love from them stronger."
Being a women in the service is not easy.
"It's a challenge for me to be taken just as serious as the men in service," Daniella said. "There are times that a male service member who is less qualified will receive more respect, more opportunities and better positions within their job, simply because they are a male. Because of these disadvantages, women are constantly competing between other women, which leads to women feeling like they are being oppressed doubly, within their units and the military."
But Daniella continues to work with excellence despite the challenges and due to her willingness to mentor and her commitment to working with excellence, was given the position of First Sergeant overseeing a unit of 80 members.
"My supervisor came to me about 4 days before the application was due and asked me if I wanted to apply," recalled Daniella. "I scrambled to send in all of the paperwork and barely got it in one time. They interviewed me and although I was up against two males, one caucasian and one Asian, they chose me for the position. It's NOTHING but God!"
1st Sgt. Newbill is one of only two black female first sergeants in her entire wing, which represents a minimum of 1,500 members.
"I was talking to my uncle who recently retired from the military and he told how significant it was to have made rank at a very young age," said Daniella, 35, who plans to complete the highest ranking in the next 10 years. "God has truly blessed me. He positioned people around me to help me make rank on time. I'm not even worthy but He continues to provide for our family and bless me more than I deserve."
Along with success on the job, and in the military, Daniella found time to complete a Masters in Business Administration in 2017 and will receive her diploma in May of this year. She knows that she couldn't have done it without her supportive husband and family.
"It was hard being a student because I had to ensure that I allowed myself adequate time to complete my homework in addition to my workload and family life. I try my best to give my maximum efforts with everything I do," said Daniella, who is ready to start on her next Master's Degree in the fall.
It was an honor to photograph Daniella because any woman who works, goes to school and serves our country, all while blessing her family is a phenomenal woman. Just one week after Marvel's lastest movie, Black Panther's release, Daniella and I met up to capture this Wakandian-inspired photo shoot in celebration of her incredible educational milestone.
Not only was I inspired by her, but I know that she is an inspiration for many women.
When I asked her the secret to balancing it all, she said she has learned how to sacrifice.
"Outside of Christ, its sacrifice...I have to sacrifice," she said. "Some days I balance being a wife, mother, full-time student and worker well and then other times I wish I could have done better. My secret is that ultimately, I know that my family is going to be taken care of because I stay in constant communication with my Father. Prayer keeps me sane, strong and I am reminded constantly of His promises the more I commune with Him."
For the mom who is in school, balancing her career and family and is on the verge of giving up, Daniella shares this piece of advice: "Ohhh, I know ALL about wanting to quit! I've been there many times. But its the enemy that wants you to give up the plans and goals that you have. The devil wants you to be a quitter, but Christ did not create quitters!" she said. "You are wonderful! You are powerful! You are beautiful! You are a child of the most High God!"
There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise. -W.E.B Dubois.