BALTIMORE (Army News Service, Feb. 20, 2010) -- The commanding general of U.S. Africa Command and a young structural engineer working for the Army in New Orleans were recognized Saturday at the 24th Annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards.

Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, commander, U.S. Africa Command, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jeremy D. Laster, a structural engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District, was recognized as the "Most Promising Engineer or Scientist in Government" for his work in the design and development of the Hurricane Risk Reduction System in New Orleans.

<b>Ward: senior African-American officer</b>

Gen. Ward was recognized for his leadership and mentoring throughout his 39 years in the Army.

Ward is the only active-duty, four-star African-American general, and he is only the fifth African American to achieve this rank. He also has the distinction of being the first commander of U.S. Africa Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany.

"It's truly humbling to enter the ranks of the Lifetime Achievement Award winners -- women and men who make our nation great by the contributions they make each and every day," said Ward in his acceptance speech.

A nuance of the mentorship that earned him the award in question shone in his speech as Ward stressed the importance of a strong education.

"This is a time when we see so many challenges, but in those challenges reside such great opportunities," he said. "Those opportunities are at the hands of these men and women who, having a sound education, can achieve success in life because of mastering that fundamental. A college education teaches people how to unlock the totality of their potential."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen spoke warmly of Ward as he presented his award.

"[General Ward] represents the best of the best," said Mullen. "I've watched him influence [and] lead people, in peace and war, and everyone I know thinks the world of who he is and who and what he represents. He's a dear friend, an exceptional Soldier, [and] a wonderful family man."

<b>Most Promising Engineer</b>

Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, commanding general, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, presented the award for Most Promising Engineer or Scientist in Government.

"Jeremy Laster is a bright young star in the Corps of Engineers," Van Antwerp said as he presented the award. "He's emerging as one of our most outstanding young engineers and leaders."

Van Antwerp went on to recite a litany of Laster's many projects, to include the development of structural designs, flood walls, coffer dams, and the evaluations of foundation requirements for incredibly difficult soils in southern Louisiana.

"When I was in high school," Laster said in his acceptance speech, "my 10th-grade chemistry professor told me something that changed my life. 'If I were in your shoes, I would go to Jackson State University [and] major in engineering ... Well, I took his advice, and I stand before you tonight, and I will continue to stand before you as a structural engineer for the Corps of Engineers."

BEYA recognizes significant achievements of black engineers throughout the United States. Those who demonstrate outstanding performance and help shape the course of engineering, science, and technology for the future are honored as "Modern-Day Technology Leaders," to include servicemembers, students, executives, educators, and professionals.

(MC2 Elizabeth Vlahos serves with Defense Media Activity - Anacostia.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16