DARIEN, Ill. - She walked into the Phoenix Military Academy gymnasium among a formation of 500 high school JROTC cadets with a simple message.
Shoot for the top.
The analogy was appropriate given the basketball hoops hanging on either end of the court, but sports was only a metaphor for the overall potential each of these high school students might achieve.
"Your experience will mold you into who you become. I didn't plan for my career to be the command chief warrant officer of the engineer command, but that's where I am today because that's where my experience has led me," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Therese Beatty, the command chief to the 416th Theater Engineer Command, headquartered in Darien, Illinois.
This was the fourth time this year a senior leader from the 416th TEC visited a Chicago high school to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Previous visits included two general officers and a full-bird colonel. Each of them talked about how the Army Reserve shaped their career and provided them with unique opportunities.
The same is true with Beatty, who said the Army Reserve helped her get to where she is today after 32 years of service. She is a member of the leadership team at a two-star general command.
"When I joined the Army I was the only female in my chemical unit. There's a lot more women in leadership positions today than when I first joined. I don't think, I knew one female warrant officer in my first 15 years Army wide. Today I know dozens if not hundreds women in leadership positions. It's important for the women in our society to know that it is feasible to progress to the senior grades in the military," she said.
STEM, after all, is not a male-only field.
"Everybody has talents and they need to pursue their top talents regardless of gender. If science engineering and math or technology is your strong suit you need to pursue your career goals based on your strength, your characteristics, not what society may project as traditional roles," she said.
Currently, Beatty is responsible for managing and recruiting all warrant officers within the command, a population of about 160 positions. Though their number is small, warrant officers are part of a much larger picture. They serve as the technical experts for missions led and executed by 13,000 Soldiers across the command.
Their technical expertise makes warrant officers perfect examples of professionals who specialize in STEM, which are fields in high demand in the U.S.
After morning formation, Beatty spoke to the Phoenix senior class, a group of approximately 90 students. She talked about the Army Reserve, how it prepares Citizen-Soldiers for STEM jobs, and answered questions about warrant officers in the Army.
The Army Reserve offers about a dozen fields that are STEM related, to include engineering, aviation, chemical, logistics and medical. There are roughly 80,000 positions available in these areas across the Army Reserve. The largest of these is engineering, offering 20,000 positions across all 50 states. They specialize in horizontal and vertical construction, survey and design, demolition and more.
Army Reserve engineers don't work only on military installations. They partner with government organizations throughout the year to build projects for the community. These missions train Soldiers in skills that are in high demand in the civilian sectors.
"A lot of students are not aware of the opportunities that the Army Reserve offers them," said Cadet Lt. Col. Sergio Gonzalez, senior and battalion commander for the student class at Phoenix.
"With her coming in and talking about STEM fields, which are needed in the world right now for development, it's pretty rewarding ... the Army Reserve is a great opportunity for students as well, and to be able to apply that to their lives and their jobs and careers in the STEM fields," he said.
Toward the end of her visit, student leadership briefed Beatty on their school's overall achievements and their individual goals. Beatty's "shoot for the top" speech was not lost on them. Among the eight students who briefed, ambitions ranged from civil engineering, West Point attendance, politics and the medical field.
"It's such a thrill to be there with them this morning ... They had lofty goals. Most of them wanted to attend college, though (some) were willing to enlist in the Army before that ... I was so happy to see on one of the slides for one of the JROTC cadets that he wanted to be the next chief of staff of the Army," said Beatty.