Carlsbad's Army and Navy Academy for boys gets its first woman leader
For more than 112 years, the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad has housed thousands of cadets. But throughout the boys-only academy’s long history, a woman has never been president until this year, when retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Peggy Combs took on the job.
“I just believe the school is moving towards the future," Combs said. "It has nothing to do with my gender. It’s just the experience that I bring to the school in character, leader development, and just training and education.”
Combs, who took over Oct. 23, will serve as the 16th president and the first woman to head the boarding school for boys.
She served in the Army for more than 30 years, is a two-star general, and has worked with thousands of ROTC students nationwide.
“I think the biggest blessing of the career was commanding Army ROTC nationwide because that's where I started,” she said.
The opportunity to work with the boys at the Army and Navy Academy took her out of retirement in Florida and brought her to Carlsbad.
“The boys ... they're very dedicated to being great, and that's exciting to see, and all of the potential on this campus is just wonderful," Combs said. "How can you not smile every day when you come here?"
Since her arrival, Combs said students and staff have welcomed her with open arms.
“She's incredibly interactive with all the students," said David Dror, a cadet captain at the academy. "Having a one-on-one with her was probably the most eye-opening thing for me because I had a chance to see her experience and see how well she wants the kids to do."
The boarding school houses boys from seventh to 12th grade and prepares them for college.
Combs says contrary to belief, the academy goes beyond the military school label.
“Most people, when they think of military schools, they think of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ or tearing people down to build them back up," she said. "That's not what we do. It is an element of structure.”
Senior and battalion commander Dolla Proto said the school's discipline has had a huge impact on him.
"They have changed the way I operate every single day," Proto said. "I focus in school and actually do my work because you have to do it."
Sullivan Adams, another senior and a command sergeant major, said the school helped him discover what he wants to do next in life.
“I'm hoping to go to the University of Wyoming to study astrophysics or perhaps go to the Naval academy," he said. "I have been very interested in leadership and physics, so maybe a combination of the two.”
While Combs has only held the role for a few weeks, she’s excited about what's to come.
"Our boys are our future," Combs said. "And to have just a small role in impacting the future of our great nation, one boy at a time, I just think is pretty special.”