By Nikki Montgomery, AMRDEC Public AffairsOctober 14, 2016
DETROIT -- A senior leader of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center will be honored at the 21st Women of Color Science and Technology, Engineering and Math Conference Oct. 15.
Juanita Harris, AMRDEC's director of Weapons Development and Integration Directorate, was nominated for the Professional Achievement-Government Award.
"I am very honored to get the award, especially knowing [former U.S. Army Materiel Command commanding] General Via nominated me," said Harris. "I'm humbled by the opportunity to be recognized in this way. I don't think I'm doing anything more than others, but I do feel I am a role model for the Center and my organization."
Since 1995, Women of Color magazine's annual conference recognizes significant contributions of women in STEM fields to attract and leverage talent in America's scientific and technical workforce.
Harris has been recognized as a pathfinder in her field, becoming the first African-American woman from Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, selected for the government's Senior Executive Service. In her current role, Harris manages the science and technology portfolio for AMRDEC's missile systems.
"This has been a challenging opportunity for me," Harris said. "Our focus is to provide new technologies, new capabilities to create an advantage. We want to provide that overmatch for the Warfighter. A part of what my organization does is to develop those cross cutting, new, innovative solutions."
She began her career in 1985 as an engineer for Boeing, eventually making her way to Huntsville in 2000. Before her current position, Harris was the deputy director for AMRDEC's Aviation Development Directorate.
As a native of East Saint Louis, Illinois, Harris attributes her successes in life to her family and various mentors throughout her career. She says it is her experiences and qualifications she hopes people recognize, not solely the color of her skin.
"I think there need to be more opportunities for not just women, but minorities in general. If you look at me and all that you see is the fact that I'm a female and black, then I think you're missing the real benefit I bring to the organization; the diversification of the activities I've worked on, my expertise in developing a workforce, my leadership, my critical thinking. It is the culmination of everything that I bring to the table."
The Women of Color STEM conference is a three-day event that offers career networking opportunities and hosts award ceremonies. Attendees have the opportunity to meet and learn from executives representing Fortune 500 companies that are committed to diversity and to the advancement of women in the workforce.
This award comes after two leadership awards Harris previously received in 2015 including the inaugural Dred Scott Freedom Award for government service in December 2015 and the Women Honoring Women award for technology in September 2015.
The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.