HEADQUARTERS, NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. -- Even for an award-winning brigadier general, life doesn't always go as planned.

"Don't let the things that have happened in the past define the person you're going to be," said Brig. Gen. Jill Faris, the U.S. Army, deputy chief of staff, G-1/4/6, at a Women's History Month event here March 23. "My life can be described in one sentence: Well, that didn't go as planned."

Faris showed the approximately 300 employees a series of positive images and quotations to describe her life story and success in the Army National Guard, in which she has served for 35 years.

The oldest of three daughters growing up in South Dakota, Faris joined the National Guard at age 17.

"Little girls with dreams become women with vision," she said. "I was nurtured in a family without limitations. At home, my parents never limited what I wanted to do."

This attitude helped Faris when she became the only female in her first military organization in field artillery, where she had to battle stereotypes.

"The only thing we control in life is the way we respond to what life gives us," she said, remembering a time, early in her career, when she was told she was too emotional.

"It's been OK for me to be emotional. I get passionate about things that impact soldiers," she said. "It's important to show our excitement, our zest, our love."

Until her recent change in position, Faris helped the deputy surgeon general by providing consultative services and strategic planning in the areas of medical readiness, health care, medical personnel, medical operational and training issues that affect the National Guard. She has won many military awards and decorations, including the Meritorious Service Award and Army Commendation Medal.

Faris is a "fantastic example of persistence, leadership and intelligence," said Capt. Scott Dillon, an executive champion of NAVAIR's Women's Advisory Group.

She impressed on employees other life lessons, including learning to stifle doubt, accepting there will always be people who won't like you and coming to terms with your past and present.

"Whatever it is that's happened to you, own it. Don't hide it," she advised. "This is what makes you different and unique and special."

She advised employees who want to rise as leaders to plan for success.

"I believe what's for you will not pass you by, but you need to make a plan, write it down and work on it every single day," she said. "What got me where I am is always being ahead of all of my peers."

To lead, you need to be inclusive and appreciative, she said.

"Take a personal commitment in time to value the people in your organization. Being a good leader is hard and difficult work, and you should be exhausted at the end of the day. You're in the people business, ultimately," she said. "The only way anything positive happens in an organization is to embrace change, embrace diversity, embrace inclusion. If you won't change your attitude, you won't ever reach your maximum potential."

This celebration of Women's History Month, with the theme of "Honoring Trailblazing Women," was sponsored by NAVAIR's Women's Advisory Group and the NAVAIR Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Division. The Women's Advisory Group supports working parents, women at industrial sites, and entry and mid-career employees and promotes professional development through toolkits, a professional reading council and other projects.