WMU inducts first woman to ROTC Wall of Fame
'The Army has given me so many opportunities and I've taken each one that has been offered'
Col. Kattiria Walker, first African-American female graduate of WMU ROTC program; becomes the 40th member of the WMU ROTC Wall of Fame
Col. Kattiria Walker is the first woman inducted into the Western Michigan University Reserve Officer’s Training Corps’ Wall of Fame.
WMU’s ROTC Wall of Fame is an honor bestowed on select alumni with distinguished military careers. Walker became the 40th member of the group and the first woman during an induction in September 2017. She was initially surprised to hear of her selection and excited to be recognized for her service.
“I am honored to be part of this program and the Army for almost three decades of my life,” Walker said. “The Army has given me so many opportunities and I’ve taken each one that has been offered.”
With 29 years of service, Walker has embraced life with the same outlook, everything was another opportunity to experience something new.
“I never imagined starting out that I would achieve the rank of colonel. It was a series of life opportunities I took that led me here,” said Walker. “There are some people who bring a little gray cloud into your life. You have the ability to excuse it and keep moving. I’ve always chosen to see the great opportunities in my career and take them by staying positive.”
Growing up in Dowagiac, Mich., Walker was one of 11 children. Her father, an Army Korean War veteran, and her mother instilled the importance of family and value of hard work in their children. Walker said as kids they were busy with activities outside of school.
“We were always busy in sports and Tae Kwon Do as kids. I was one of the four youngest siblings and we were teammates in sports and competed together,” said Walker. “We never were competitive against each other though. We supported each other while achieving our own goals.”
Walker said her family is her foundation and very important to her. She remains close with her siblings and childhood friends. She is most known for her generous spirit and kind-hearted nature.
“Family is important to all of us. Although we are far apart, we are all still close and keep up with each other whenever possible,” said Sheila Adams, Walker’s sister. “I’m proud of all we both accomplished because of the military. She was the first African-American female to graduate from the WMU ROTC program and I was the second.”
Adams is a year younger than Walker. She is also a retired Army lieutenant colonel with a doctorate in social work research and statistics.
“I say it all the time, there are so many diverse opportunities in the Army. You can be an engineer, a photographer, a scientist, and a leader,” Walker said. “The ability to be part of an inclusive team and experience different opportunities are the main reasons I joined. I’m proud of my father and two sisters who also proudly served.”
Soldier and a mother
Balancing Army life with a family can be difficult and Walker explained that she and her son, Jairden Walker-Chambers, made the conscious decision to put the Army first. This decision equated to frequent moves and school changes, which wasn’t easy.
“I’ve lived in eight states and attended ten schools. I learned to adjust quickly and think on my feet. I love my mom for giving me that,” said Walker-Chambers. “As a child, it was definitely tough. I am thankful I had the opportunity as a lot of people don’t get to move around as I did.”
Walker-Chambers said he has never seen his mother complain. The mindset of “doing what we have to do” rather than “what we want to do” was their foundation.
At 20, Walker-Chambers said his mother remains a strong, positive force in his life.
“She set the example,” he said. “She always had a positive attitude and now that I’m older it benefits me more.” He is currently a junior at Michigan, majoring in kinesiology (occupational therapy).
Road to service
Denise Redmond and Walker have been friends since kindergarten. They played sports together all throughout childhood and high school. Through the years, the two stayed close and keep in touch.
“I’m really proud of her as it’s a nice legacy for her to leave behind for her family,” said Redmond of the ROTC Wall of Fame. “She was always the kind of person who knew what she wanted and worked hard to get it. She was always like the mother of our group. She made you think and was protective of us.”
Redmond’s admiration has carried through into adulthood. She tells her own daughter to “be like Kitty,” which is the name she calls Walker. “I don’t know a finer person and caring, giving friend,” she added.
Walker was commissioned as a military police officer after graduating from WMU in 1990. She has held positions as a platoon leader, company commander, and various key staff office positions. In 2012, she was selected as one of the inspectors for the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault and Prevention or SHARP program. In part, she traveled the globe to Army installations to speak with soldiers of all ranks and assess the program. Her findings with her teammates were ultimately given to the president.
“I was very proud to be selected for this role as it was another opportunity where I could make a positive difference for soldiers,” Walker said. “I traveled overseas to discover difficult experiences and deliver information to instill changes to improve the program for all.”
The assignment was tough at times, she said, as the topic of sexual harassment and sexual assault is not an easy one to discuss. She and her team understood the importance and delicate nature of their inquiries.
“Our team’s work was important because sexual harassment and assault impact every part of our mission readiness — our subordinates, peers, and leaders. We can take preventive measures and raise awareness to make changes.”
Walker has earned two master’s degrees and is an Army War College graduate. She is the recipient of various awards, including the Legion of Merit and five Meritorious Service Medals.
Currently, she is serving as the director, G-34 Army Protection for the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve.