Have you ever sat next to someone on the bus or in a waiting room and wondered who they were? Not just their name, but what makes them who they are? Have you ever walked around your workspace, engaging all your co-worker friends, only to discover at a farewell event you had no clue that your friend was married with kids?
One of the marvels of the military is the opportunity to meet many unique individuals from all different walks of life. Soldiers, who have seen the organization evolve through several generations of different Soldiers during their tenure. Soldiers who were drawn to answer their Nation's call to selfless service; regardless of the potential opportunities available to them.
The miraculous varieties of humanity found in the Army melting pot of diversity are endless reflections of the high caliber of men and women, many of whom serve within the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
The next question that needs to be raised is, do you know 1st Lt. Elle L. Taylor? Do not worry or feel bad, only a lucky few do. Fortunately for us, that is about to change.
Taylor, a child with a radiant disposition, was born and raised in Redondo Beach, Calif., alongside her sister, Della, who is 16-months her senior. Her father worked in sales in downtown Los Angeles and her mother was a music teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Regardless of what her parents' personal or career lives were like they always made sure to prioritize their daughters.
"Yes, my parents may have been divorced but they still remained the best of friends who made sure that my sister and I were always their number one priority," said 1st Lt. Elle L. Taylor, the human resource strength management officer in the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. "They were always there to pick us up and make sure we made it to practices and games. My parents kept my sister and I extremely busy with sports and it was what kept our family bond so strong. I think that is where my reverence for athletics began.
"No matter what was going on we all came together in support of our sports. They made sure they provided us with every opportunity to succeed."
With a childhood that predominately consisted of juggling school and her softball, soccer, and tennis schedules, Taylor learned the importance of hard work and determination. Traits that pushed her and her sister to impressive athletic achievements starting at a young age.
"I played national competitive junior tennis with Della from the age of 8," explained Taylor. "Our goal had always been to earn a full ride scholarship to a Division I college; the last thing on our minds was to attend a service academy."
Della, one grade ahead of Taylor in high school, received a phone call from a surprising source interested her athletic prowess.
"She received a phone call during her junior year in high school from the tennis coach at [U.S. Military Academy at] West Point indicating an interest in recruiting my sister," said Taylor. "Prior to that call, we had absolutely no knowledge or understanding of what attending and playing for a service academy entailed."
The door of opportunity had been presented and opened to them. They just had to decide whether they were ready to adjust their original plans and step through that door.
And step through that door they both did; a step that was more reminiscent of kicking a door with so much force it is knocked off its hinges.
"Della and I both attended and graduated from West Point," said Taylor, with a huge, dazzling smile. "All three years that we attended together, we served as the number one doubles team."
It became quite clear that their parents support, and the sisters' hard work and dedication to their craft had set them up to take the athletic world by storm in a very impactful way; cementing their place in West Point and the Army's athletics history.
"We currently hold the record for the most wins at the number one doubles position for the Army women's tennis team," said Taylor. "We won the Patriot League Conference Tournament together...twice, and received automatic bids in the prestigious NCAA tournament."
The sister's team received automatic bids in the NCAA tournament in both 2012 and 2013, detailed Taylor. Both sisters received the Maggie Dixon Inspiration Award for fearless competitiveness and love of sport in the same year. Taylor earned recognition as the Athlete of the Year her junior year.
Throughout her scholastic journey at West Point, Taylor not only worked diligently to best her opponents on the court but she strove to excel scholastically above her peers as well.
"I received the Scholar-Athlete Award and graduated with honors in the systems engineering department," said Taylor.
Yes, she maintained a fairly good grade average while being a professional collegiate athlete--Isn't that what all these athletes do? Taylor would be the first to humbly let you maintain your assumption but that could not be further from the truth.
Taylor was the third person and first female cadet of her graduating class of approximately 950 cadets to receive her diploma because she had received the Army Athletic Association Award. An honor that she received while in the presence of many of our Nation's most influential and powerful civilian and military leaders.
"The Army Athletic Association Award is given to the male and female cadet who displays the most valuable service to intercollegiate athletics during a career as a cadet," shared Taylor.
Her level of skill and professionalism was recognized to the extent that after graduation she was asked to serve as an athletic intern for her West Point women's tennis team.
After her journey with the women's tennis team had come to a close, Taylor wasn't finished pushing herself or her leadership ability as a Soldier.
"Following my internship, I attended my Adjutant General Basic Leadership course and graduated as the distinguished honor graduate," said Taylor.
Taylor currently advises and leads as a human resource officer at the 94th AAMDC where she specializes in officer strength management.
Though Taylor continues to involve herself in sports related activities, she is focused on enabling other Soldiers to be fully developed leaders and growing to her maximum potential in her career field.
"My leadership advice would be to treat those around you how you would want to be treated," shared Taylor. "I am a firm believer in creating a positive atmosphere where those around you want to do their very best and work hard."
But how does an atmosphere where those around you want to do their best and work hard, benefit a military organization?
"My [command sergeant major] at West Point always emphasized to 'care that much,'" said Taylor. "I think if everyone tried their best and cared about what they were doing and how their work affects Soldiers and their Families, the mission's end state would benefit greatly. It is easy for me, as a human resources officer, to get lost in the paperwork, but knowing that behind every paper and document is a Soldier and a Family, is what really motivates me to do the best that I can to complete the process as fast as possible."
When asked to reflect on the importance of observing National Women's History Month, Taylor recognizes that much of her achievements would not be possible if not for those who came before her.
"I think it is important to recognize those brave women in the military who have had to break the glass ceiling," explained Taylor. "These women endured so much to make it possible for future generations of women like me to have as many opportunities as we do."
Taylor believes that there are currently many superb examples of why we should continue to honor women's historical achievements through observances such as during this month.
"I had the privilege of having Capt. Shaye Haver, one of the three first female Ranger graduates, as my fitness coach while on the tennis team at West Point," she continued. "I feel that these three female Rangers have really inspired not only all the women currently serving in the military, but also young girls all around the world to try their best and break society's restrictions on women."