ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 25, 2014) -- Children filled the halls of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command the morning of April 24 as the second annual "Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" event kicked off at ATEC Headquarters building at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

ATEC personnel were invited to bring their daughters, sons, relatives, and friends to work to provide them a glimpse of the wide range of career and learning opportunities that exist at ATEC. Approximately 70 children arrived to participate in a full day of activities, which included hands-on experience in the day-to-day activities at ATEC, trying on field equipment worn by Soldiers in field environments, tossing dummy grenades, and simulating firing dummy M-16 rifles.

The event started with a welcome from Benita Bryant, ATEC equal employment opportunity specialist and coordinator of the event, and a brief overview of the activities planned throughout the day.

Bryant, who planned last year's event, was enthusiastic about this year's theme, "Plant a Tree, Grow a Future," and had confidence in ATEC personnel to serve as role models and inspire the children to reach their full potential during the event.

"This is a great opportunity for us to 'plant seeds' in the fertile ground of a young child's mind," said Bryant. "This event provided us a chance to discuss their future career aspirations and give advice on the steps necessary to reach and exceed those aspirations."

Robert Carter, executive technical director at ATEC, delivered introductory remarks highlighting the importance of the work ATEC employees provide to the Army and its Soldiers by testing equipment before it is deployed on the battlefield for Soldiers to use.

He shared his views on the benefits of the program and the impact this opportunity will have on children as they observe what their parents do for a living.

"First and foremost, it's about Army Families," said Carter. "Just as Families are the strength of our Soldiers, the same is true for our civilian workforce."

He, too, hopes the seeds planted will spark a child's interest in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematic fields, and ignite an interest in pursuing an Army career.

"The more young people that are exposed to Army activities and gain appreciation of what it is that we're about, can only improve public support and trust of the institution," said Carter.

This year's guest speaker, Sarah Wheat, program manager for ATEC's G-1 directorate, emphasized that it's never too early to start thinking about career options. Wheat provided pamphlets that listed a number of internship programs available in a variety of career fields.

During the afternoon portion of the day's events, children watched as Soldiers assigned to the Aberdeen Test Center demonstrated use of a Buffalo Mine-Protected armored vehicle used to detect, clear and/or destroy dangerous explosives. The vehicle featured a 30-foot robotic arm and claw and allows Soldiers to safely dispose of a dummy improvised explosive device.

Several parents expressed their satisfaction with the program and how it is one of the ATEC-sponsored events they now look forward to.

"My daughter Ella looks forward to it every year and so do I," said Natalie Dennison, program analyst, ATEC G-1 directorate. "It makes me proud to be a part of ATEC." Dennison feels the program helps give her 9-year-old daughter a greater understanding of her job, why she works as hard as she does, and why it is necessary for her to leave her and her sibling each day.

The day's event concluded with the children having their photos taken as Carter and Karen Taylor, ATEC chief of staff, presented certificates accompanied with some words of advice.

As he closed the day's activities, Carter addressed the importance of education and getting good grades in school.

"This program is another means of promoting STEM among young people and encouraging them to pursue education in these areas," Carter said. "The U.S. currently ranks only 25th in the world in producing degreed engineers and scientists." Carter believes that even if the 'Take our Daughters and Sons to Work' program only encourages a small percentage to pursue these fields, the U.S. will still reap the benefits whether they choose a career with the Army or within the private sector.

According to the Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation, the 'Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day' is an annual event held the fourth Thursday each April. This year marked the event's 21st anniversary. Founded by Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation for Women (a non-profit organization also founded by Steinem), the annual event started in New York in 1993. The event initially began as the "Take our Daughters to Work Day" and was designed to address self-esteem issues unique to girls and expanded in 2003 to include boys. For more information on the Foundation and program please visit: http://www.daughtersandsonstowork.org/.