ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Army News Service, Oct. 26, 2015) -- "We all have important jobs we do each day, but our most important mission is to grow the future," Gen. Dennis L. Via said.

Via, who serves as the commanding general of U.S. Army Materiel Command, or AMC, spoke at Aberdeen Proving Ground with representatives from local colleges and universities during AMC Academia Day 2015, Oct. 23. He said he believes that a critical part of growing the future involves investing in and influencing young Americans who are currently in college.

"The students we influence today are those we are building the foundation with and for. Invest today to ignite tomorrow's future," Via said. "I am here today because someone ignited a passion in me, a fire. I have always felt I needed to return that favor and try to ignite the same in others."

The general discussed his own upbringing, and how he was able to develop from a youth in Martinsville, Virginia, into the leader he is today. He explained how a teacher saw in him qualities he didn't know he had. He credited that insight as his start in life and used the example to stress to the academic audience that one never really knows when opportunity knocks.

"What my career has shown me is that there are tremendous opportunities in the federal service for a valuable, fruitful and productive career," Via said. "The problem seems to be that we don't tell that story enough - and that's on us. But we want you, our post-secondary academic professionals, to know about us and express upon your students that federal service is a viable option upon graduation."

Via said that the federal workforce is aging and that many federal employees today are approaching retirement. Those employees, in particular those who work inside Via's AMC, are responsible in many ways for equipping Soldiers with the important tools they need to carry out their missions.

"We need to grow the future not only today, but over and over to make sure our Soldiers, who are out there in harm's way, remain the best-equipped, best-trained and best-prepared force in the world," Via said.

"Our watchword has to be service and creating a passion for that service," said Maj. Gen. Crawford, who also spoke and met with educators. Crawford is commanding general of AMC's subordinate command, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM.

Crawford told those educators in attendance at the event that federal service is not restricted only to the Army, but the entire nation.

"Today is not an end step, but rather a step in a process to develop today's youth for future leadership," he said.

EDUCATORS FIND VISIT INFORMATIVE

Educators attending the event said they found the input from Via and Crawford to be helpful.

Denise Traynor, a program management specialist from Frostburg (Maryland) State University or FSU, said she attended the event to learn about career options for FSU-Cecil College students who are majoring in materiel engineering. She said the major is new at the school, and she thinks students who graduate with the degree could do well with employment at Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG.

"Materiel is everywhere and that is what I am hearing from both Gen. Via and Gen. Crawford today," she said. "I intend to use this day in an attempt to create entry pathways which our students can access for APG employment and beyond. It's exciting."

Clytrice Austin Watson, dean for the College of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Delaware State, was also excited about student opportunities in federal government.

"I am committed to looking for opportunities for our students. I see broad opportunities here and possible internships that can serve to be great life lessons," Watson said. "I have to admit I was not aware of all the opportunities here at APG, and hearing that alone has exceeded my original expectations for today."

Opportunities at APG and in the Army, extend beyond just science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career fields, as discovered by Dr. Andrea G. Lange, assistant dean for Academic Initiatives at Washington College, a small liberal arts college in Chestertown, Maryland, on the state's Eastern Shore.

"I felt like I might be an odd man out at first," Lange said. "But hearing the discussion about the need for humanities and social science types in the federal government was great and a refreshing variation off the hard sciences domination. Our education curriculum at a liberal arts institution can bridge the interest between the liberal arts student and the hard science side. That alone was encouraging for me."

TOUR OF APG'S MODERN FACILITIES

During their visit to APG, educators were also shown its state-of-the-art facilities with opportunities for employment within the science, technology, math and engineering and other fields. As well, the educators were briefed on the AMC 1,000 Intern Initiative started by Via, and CECOM's education partnership.

The daylong agenda featured remarks and provided information from both Via and Crawford, seminars on success in the federal career path, navigating the USAJobs website, and insight on federal resume writing techniques.

The day also included a discussion panel staffed by former federal interns, who shared their personal experiences of federal employment, hoping to impart insight and lessons learned along the way. The afternoon included hands-on demonstrations and information booths by the various AMC and APG agencies, centering on the work they do at APG in the defense of the country.