WASHINGTON -- Army elements were well represented at the 31st annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards and STEM Conference held here Feb. 9-11.

BEYA, which has its roots in Baltimore, celebrates the achievements of black engineers in careers that span academia, industry and government. In fact, the recipient of this year's Black Engineer of the Year Award, Dr. Eugene DeLoatch, Dean Emeritus and Professor at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. School of Engineering at Morgan State University, helped create BEYA in the mid-1980s when he suggested an event that would increase diversity in engineering.

The media company, Career Communications Group, ran with DeLoatch's idea and founded BEYA in 1985. The first BEYA conference was held that year in Baltimore, and its mission was to promote achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. Morgan State University was the first sponsor of the event.

As more than 100 exhibitors set up for the two-day job fair Feb. 10-11 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, the conference began with a series of afternoon seminars and alumni welcome sessions Feb. 9.

At the U.S. Army Materiel Command exhibit, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command showcased Army science and technology capabilities, discussed research opportunities and hoped to attract and recruit potential STEM employees. Twenty-three technical specialists from throughout RDECOM manned the exhibit space, as did representatives from the U.S. Army Communication-Electronics Command and the Army Contracting Command from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Shortly after the exhibit opened Feb. 10, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea, stopped by for a tour. Brooks and Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, RDECOM commanding general, engaged with technology representatives and also met the Army recipients of the BEYA Modern-Day Technology Leaders Award. Award recipients include: Dr. Aisha Haynes, a mechanical engineer from the Armaments Engineering Analysis & Manufacturing Directorate at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.; Mr. Troy Thompson, a chemist from Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, APG, Md.; Mr. Chika Nzelibe, a mechanical engineer also from ECBC; Ms. Monica Hall, a chemist from ECBC, Dr. Eric Moore, director of ECBC's research and technology office; and Ms. Laura Graham, a chemical engineer from ECBC.

"This is an opportunity for AMC and the command to reach out to young talent and to continue to build the bench that we have within RDECOM, and all the great work in terms of our science and technology and research and development efforts," Wins said.

AMC Commanding General, Gen. Gustav Perna, CECOM Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Bruce Crawford, and Wins engaged with students later that day during the BEYA Youth Leadership Flag/General Officer Mentoring sessions.

"It's a pleasure to be a part of this effort and to see all the great work that's on display here, and to meet and talk with young, talented, up and coming, recent graduates and young professionals and young engineers who are still in school and thinking about a career in STEM," Wins added.

Senior Department of Defense leadership participated in The Stars and Stripes award ceremony and dinner, as well as military service chiefs, DoD civilians and military members from all services, corporate representatives and administrators, government agencies, corporate and industry leaders and congressional, state and local legislatures.

Gen. Daniel. B. Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army, presented the 2017 Stars and Stripes award to Col. Cynthia Lightner, executive officer at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs).

Other notable attendees included: Gen Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps; Gen. David L. Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force; Gen. Joseph. L. Lengyel, chief, National Guard Bureau; Admiral Charles D. Michel, vice commandant of the Coast Guard; and Admiral William Moran, vice chief of Naval Operations.

During the BEYA Gala, the culminating event of the conference, Perna presented the Professional Achievement in Government Award to Dr. Everett Roper, assistant program manager, launcher and test set principal engineer at the U.S. Army/Joint Attack Munition Systems Project Office.

With more than 50 years as an engineer educator, DeLoatch reflected on his achievement of delivering black engineers to STEM careers.

"When I left school, less than one-half of one percent of all the engineers in the country were African American," DeLoatch said.

"It was an area where we had little knowledge of and participation in, when I graduated with my first engineering degree. It had nothing to do with capability but the way engineering grew. I had an opportunity to expose others to something of value," he said.

"Morgan is among the nation's top producers of black engineers, and that is due largely because of one man -- Dr. Eugene DeLoatch," said Dr. David Wilson, the 12th president of Morgan State University.