Women's equality celebrated at Fort Meade observance
March 29, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Women's history came alive March 22 for more than 300 service members and civilians at McGill Training Center during the 2012 National Women's History Month observance hosted by Army Cyber Command.
The event featured retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones, director of External Veteran/Military Affairs and Community Outreach, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, who discussed her personal steps to success.
Spc. Paula L. Ashcraft, 298th Signal Company, 302nd Signal Battalion, Fort Detrick, sang the National Anthem a cappella, followed by the invocation from Chaplain (Maj.) Grace R. Hollis-Taylor of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group.
Representing Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, commanding general of Army Cyber Command, Chief of Staff Col. Brian P. Moore introduced Jones.
"Today we have an awesome opportunity to hear Ms. Jones," Moore said. "It is important that we observe diversity to share experiences and life's lessons."
At the onset of her message, Jones requested a moment of silence "for those American forces who remain in harm's way."
Vowing to "speak from the heart," Jones described herself as "a recipient of the contributions made by women."
Jones previously served 25 years in the Army and Army Reserve, growing from a Soldier, acceding to the rank of command sergeant major and the first woman in Army history to serve as command sergeant major of the Army Reserve.
"We have the opportunity to serve, not because we are women, but because we are Americans," she said.
Jones attributed her success as a leader to five tenets - loyalty, leadership, liberty, life and legacy - and she encouraged the audience to exemplify those traits in their own service.
Citing the 2012 Women's History Month Theme, "Women's Education - Women's Empowerment," Jones stressed empowerment.
"We need to invest others with power; the ranks and titles go away," said Jones, noting that she most reveres the title "mommy."
"What are left are the future leaders that we have helped to grow by enabling others to perform and develop their own talents," she said.
Jones reflected on a time when she was asked to testify before Congress to answer a question about her opinion.
"My opinion is irrelevant," said Jones to the elected officials' surprise. "My job is to tell you what Soldiers and families are telling me."
On leadership, she said the test is what the organization does while you're away.
"Empower them to take care in your absence," Jones said. "What they do when you're not looking is the best measure of how successful you are."
Jones alluded to a list of leadership characteristics she has developed during her years in the Senior Executive Service and the Army.
"First, the only 'I' is the individual you are selecting to lead," she said. "Next, is tapping into the individual's talents and strengths. Third, knowledge is power when it is shared -- empower someone to grow and spread the seeds. Then educate through formal and informal ways -- take the person aside."
Jones also discussed the importance of teaching, taking ownership, holding people accountable, providing rewards and confronting fear.
"I have three daughters," said Jones. "I want them to be independent and make sound decisions. That's how we should guide those who will lead in the future."
Jones shared her own fear of heights and how she learned to confront it by undergoing paratrooper training.
She then revealed her "bones" theory during which she asked the audience what they thought were the most important bones.
"Backbone is having the courage to stand your ground, to go against the tide when it is right, to say 'I need help' or 'I was wrong,' " Jones said. "Then there is the wishbone, to have hope and believe in yourself; otherwise, it won't happen.
"To combat the haters, the stealers, those who are negative, the funny bone is a powerful tool. Rather than staying angry, learn to laugh, let it go. Go around or over the obstacle."
The fourth part of the bones theory, said Jones, involves the tailbone and the importance of not sitting on it.
"Nothing will happen unless you get off your tailbone, take action and do what's necessary to be successful," she said.
In closing, Jones shared two items from her tool kit that she said helped her: a faceless Soldier doll and a magic wand, complete with a mystical tune.
"This Soldier is to remind me of our legacy to help our men and women in the armed forces and their families, without regard to who they are, hence the faceless doll," Jones said. "The wand is a reminder that we need to empower others."
Moore, joined by Command Sgt. Maj. Roger P. Blackwood, Army Cyber, then presented Jones and Ashcraft with awards and Army Cyber Command coins.
"On behalf of Lieutenant General Hernandez, Army Cyber and the Fort Meade communities, thanks for your inspiring words today, and more so, thanks for your continued commitment and dedication of service to the men and women of our armed forces, their families, and our nation," Blackwood said during the presentation to Jones.
After the presentation, Col. Olen Kelley, director, G-6 Army Cyber, praised Jones' presentation.
"Ms. Jones is an exceptionally motivating speaker," Kelley said. "She kept her promise to keep our attention. She is very energetic and very accomplished."