ID=28859891First Lt. Devin Redding, budget officer for Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), helped reform North Carolina's Miss Rodeo organization in 2015, after the state had gone several years without crowning a rodeo queen. After talking it over with Lindsey Harper, the group's national director, it was decided the 2012 U.S. Military Academy graduate should lead from the front — minus a pageant, Redding was awarded the Miss Rodeo North Carolina crown in late April.

The crown — or the cowboy hat, as it were — comes with a heavy schedule; Redding will spend several weekends meeting rodeo fans in her state as well as traveling with other state winners to larger events out West, eventually competing in a weeklong Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas starting in late November.

While Redding has enjoyed the meet-and-greet aspect of her new role, it's also provided a platform for volunteer efforts, especially with children. She recently worked with Hope-thru-Horses, a therapy group for children with behavioral issues, on a program geared toward family members of fallen troops. And she's teaming up with the Cowboys Who Care Foundation to provide free, specially designed Resistol cowboy hats to patients at a local children's hospital.

"It's a great way for me not only to get the word out about rodeo in North Carolina," Redding said of her position, "but it's also a great way for me to make an impact on North Carolina residents' lives."

Redding has been riding almost since she was born in Avondale, a small Pennsylvania town southwest of Philadelphia. She carried her love of horses to West Point, where she served as captain of the school's equestrian team and enjoyed her first exposure to Western-style riding.

She deployed to Afghanistan for a year as an individual augmentee in Kabul, returning in May 2014 and eventually settling in at Fort Bragg, finding a nearby stable and a small community of rodeo- and horse-lovers, including some fellow soldiers.

"[Service members] have a tendency to really hold on to things that remind us of home," she said. "I think that's a big thing for people who ride horses and people who rodeo. It's a way to be reminded of home, it's a huge stress reliever and it's a great way to get some exercise."

Miss Rodeo, though, comes with its own stress: State winners must prepare for a Las Vegas event that includes the usual pageant fare — "Wranglers instead of bikinis," said Harper, a former contestant — along with interviews on rodeo knowledge and current events, as well as a horsemanship portion.

First Lt. Devin Redding served in Afghanistan as an individual augmentee in 2013-14 (Submitted photo)
First Lt. Devin Redding served in Afghanistan as an individual augmentee in 2013-14 (Submitted photo)

First Lt. Devin Redding served in Afghanistan as an individual augmentee from 2013-14.

Photo Credit: Army

"Some of the skills I learned at West Point, and the skills that I have honed in the Army, have been really helpful," Redding said. "Staying organized, having attention to detail, all of those things are very important during this whole crazy process."

Redding praised her command for offering assistance in her side job, and has spread the Army message to her rodeo crowds.

"She's excellent working with the public, especially with children," Harper said. "They're just mesmerized by her bubbly personality. ... For especially the young girls, to see that she can do both things — that she can be tough and be ... in the Army, making a difference in the world, and she can be beautiful and sparkly and riding horses. They see that you can have the best of both worlds."

Redding may be the last appointee to the position: A pageant is planned for October to crown the 2016 queen, as well as junior and teen representatives.