HRC deputy commanding general earns first star
November 7, 2011
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- The deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., pinned on one-star rank during a ceremony at the Mississippi War Memorial Museum in Jackson, Miss., Nov. 5. Hosting the ceremony for the new brigadier general was the Army's first female African-American major general.
Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson clipped the rank onto the shoulders of the blue jacket of Brig. Gen. Margarett Barnes' Army service uniform as did retired Col. Robert Barnes, the brigadier general's husband. Anderson, HRC's previous deputy commanding general, recently accepted the position of Deputy Chief, Army Reserve (Individual Mobilization Augmentee).
Barnes' husband helped her off with her jacket so that the Barnes children, Jessica Steele-Hardin and James Steele Jr., could affix the rank epaulets to her shirt. Her sister Betty Collins attached the star to Barnes' black beret.
An IMA Soldier, Barnes was presented with three symbols of the new rank she holds:
* general-officer belt brought by Maj. Daphne Dixon-Reed, who serves as a reminder that Barnes first served as an enlisted Soldier and was later commissioned.
* general-officer side arm/pistol brought by Maj. Ray Buckner, currently serving in the U.S. Army Reserve Command. He represents the Soldiers who deployed with the 324th Replacement Battalion from Starkville, Miss., under her command in 2003.
* general-officer flag brought by the Jackson State University Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, color guard. Sgt. Maj. Scarlett Williams, who represents the many Soldiers with whom Barnes served throughout her career, uncased the flag by removing the sheath that protected it. Barnes and Williams unfurled the flag. The red flag with its one white star had been physically touched by the hands of those who had touched Barnes' life.
Anderson administered the oath of office to Barnes, then deferred general-officer honors to her. For the first time as a brigadier general, Barnes heard the music of One Ruffle and Flourish followed in quick succession by the General's March. Announcing the Army's newest general, a crisp brass flourish and dynamic percussion ruffle preceded a brief march that was peppered with fanfare and mounted to an exhilarating finish.
This ceremony, steeped in military ritual, was merely the beginning of a new chapter in Barnes' history.
"Between my first and second year of law school, I joined the Army Reserve," Barnes said. "I was a WAC, as a matter of fact."
She joined the Women's Army Corps at Fort Jackson, S.C. Since she already had a degree when she joined, she went in as a private first class. While Barnes was an enlisted Soldier, she was a 76Y unit supply specialist and a 75C personnel management specialist. She applied for a direct commission in the early 1980s.
"When I took command of the 412th Replacement Company in Pascagoula (Miss.), we were mobilized as part of Operation Desert Storm," said Barnes, who was 1st Lt. Margarett Steele at the time.
"We had a ceremony and talked with the Soldiers' families," she said. "I had to make them a promise, as best I could I would take care of their Soldiers and try to bring them back, and I was just a kid myself," she said, explaining that her unit went to Fort Benning, Ga., at the CONUS (Continental United States) Replacement Center expecting to be sent to the Persian Gulf. The needs of the Army dictated that her unit would take over operations at the CRC right there in Georgia.
Barnes said her unit was a young group, half of whom were college students … including Maj. Daphne Dixon-Reed, who was in the 412th from 1985 to 1991 and now works in the same command as the new general officer -- at HRC's Officer Personnel Management Directorate. Dixon-Reed knew Barnes when Dixon-Reed was Pfc. Daphne Dixon, a student who commuted from Southern University, Baton Rouge, La., to the 412th in Pascagoula, Miss., where she worked as a personnel actions clerk.
The general "has been an inspiration throughout my whole career, it seems. She pinned my E-4 (specialist) rank prior to mission to Germany (Return of Forces to Germany, or REFORGER)," Dixon-Reed said. "1st Lt. Steele set the bar high for education, leadership and mentorship. In fact, she is the reason I went to OCS (Officer Candidate School). She always pushed others to be their very best and not settle for the status quo."
Some people along the way, however, were squarely behind the status quo.
"There was once a senior NCO in our command who said, 'Females have no place in the military.' He was wrong. Females not only have a place in the Army but a place in history," Dixon-Reed said, explaining that Barnes has proved that.
The women of the 412th Replacement Company have been a formidable force. In fact, two general officers have come out of that Army Reserve unit, Barnes and Brig. Gen. Janet L. Cobb, the commander prior to Steele (Barnes), who as a captain pinned on Dixon-Reed's "mosquito wings" (private 2 rank).
Army leadership training is crucial to the development of any Army Reserve officer, but it has also improved Barnes' civilian life.
"I've found that the leadership training the Army provided has helped me so much in my civilian job," Barnes said. "It has helped me be more confident making decisions, more confident in public speaking."
The general retired from her job as director of procurement for the Mississippi Department of Education in 2007.
"The only down side I can see in being a citizen-Soldier was not having enough time to spend with my family in Mississippi," she said, mentioning that she'd missed a lot of birthdays, school plays and athletic events. "They (her children) turned out well, but you can't get it back."
When Barnes was the commander of the 324th Replacement Battalion in Starkville, Miss., she and her unit were deployed to Camp Wolf, Kuwait, from January 2003 to January 2004 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During her career, she has also worked on missions in Panama and Germany.
"It's worth it to know that I'm a part of something that makes a difference. It makes a difference to the citizens of the United States and for other countries, too. It's a great feeling to be part of the U.S. Army -- the biggest, 'baddest' army in the world."
When Barnes says "baddest," she means "most capable."
Barnes said she likes being one of the "white-hat folks. You want to be on the side of good, and look back and be proud of that."
As HRC deputy commanding general, Barnes' task is to help HRC employees, who serve Active Component and Army Reserve (Reserve Component) populations, work together better.
Because of the congressionally mandated base realignment and closure, or BRAC, process that HRC completed May 31, employees have come from three locations -- Alexandria, Va.; Indianapolis and St. Louis -- as well as those who joined the command at Fort Knox. Alexandria and Indianapolis elements of the command served AC Soldiers while St. Louis served RC Soldiers.
They had different ways of doing business, and it's Barnes' challenge to help HRC employees arrive at a common point of view.
AC and RC use a lot of different computer systems and have a lot of different policies that guide them, Barnes said.
"There's got to be a way that the folks working the processes aren't separate. My objective would be to help the integration -- not the collocation -- of Active Component and Reserve Component," she said. "We're all in this together."