Fort Rucker honors Women of Year with ceremony
Aviation Branch Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Thomson, Deborah Jones, Holly Patterson, CW4 Celeste Melena, Lori Snell, Jennifer Williamson, Vanessa Mahone, Susie Antonello and Col. Jessie Farrington pause for a photo after the ceremony.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 5, 2012) -- More than 30 women were nominated, but only six were given the title Women of the Year at an awards ceremony March 29 at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

These women are always professional, well-rounded in their knowledge and abilities, they have certain personal characteristics, they seek to further their education and they go above and beyond what's written in their job description. Many of them also give their time and energy to the community outside of their work requirements, explained Melissa Harry-Marvel, Equal Employment Opportunity Special Emphasis Program manager. "That's what makes them Women of the Year."

This year's winners are Jennifer Williamson from the Civil and Administrative Law Division of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate; Deborah Jones, administrative support clerk for the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Noncommissioned Officer Academy; CW4 Celeste Melena, stock record accountable officer for the Aviation Center Logistics Command; Vanessa Mahone, curriculum manager for the Warrant Officer Candidate School; Holly Patterson, a police officer with the Directorate of Public Safety; and Susie Antonello, visual merchandising manager for the Maxwell/Fort Rucker Consolidated Exchange.

"It makes me appreciate the organization I work for," Jones said of receiving the award. "There are so many great people. It is such a pleasure to go to work every day."

Patterson was surprised to find her name on the list. "I feel honored my department took the time to recognize what I have done," she said.

Another woman recognized during the event was the guest speaker, Lori Snell, Enterprise High School's secondary teacher of the year.

"Because of her passion for education and what she does at her school, she stood out as fitting this year's theme of Women's Education, Women's Empowerment," said Harry-Marvel.

Snell opened her speech with a story about coaching a 4- and 5-year-old T-ball team. On this team, one of the players was autistic. Instead of hitting, throwing and catching like he did at home, the child played along the fence and was hesitant to participate.

Snell worked to build a relationship with him throughout the season. Finally, during one game, she told him to hit the ball as hard as he could and run straight to her. She said the player's dad stood with him at home plate and she took a few steps toward first base.

"He hit that ball as hard as he could and he looked straight at me," she said with tears in her eyes. "So I started running backward and he started running forward and he hit first base and kept going. We went all the way home … it was just the most rewarding experience."

Snell said situations like that are what made her become a teacher. "I love to see children feel successful when they really didn't know or think that they could be. That's what our topic is -- empowerment. These children are achieving small success and building their confidence and that empowers them," she said.

Each year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Office solicits nominations from all the organizations on post, said Harry-Marvel. After all the nominations are received, they are divided into categories, such as professional, administrative and clerical, and the names are removed.

After that, six military judges and three civilians judges selected from the area around Fort Rucker grade each of the nominees on the knowledge of their job, their abilities and personal characteristics. Then, all the numbers are totaled and the person with the highest score wins. The highest possible score is 600. This year, some of the nominees were separated by as little as two points, Harry-Marvel said.

"We had some very, very critical judges this year," she said. "It was one of the toughest years we've had in quite a while. There were some very good nominations."

Page last updated Fri April 6th, 2012 at 00:00