WASHINGTON -- Army senior leaders had an opportunity Friday to mentor high-school students in science, technology, engineering and math during the 33rd annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards STEM Global Competitiveness Conference.

This year's event was the largest, officials said, bringing in more than 185 Department of Defense representatives and 500-plus students.

Undersecretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy was there along with Lt Gen. Nadja West, the Army's Surgeon General; Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Lt. Gen. Aundre F. Piggee, the deputy chief of Staff, G-4.

"[We] have a chance to talk to [students] and mentor them, whether they choose to go in the Army or not," McCarthy said. "Being a mentor and helping these young men and women … is among the most important things that I do."

During his mentoring session, McCarthy highlighted the importance of time management and the value of teammates.

"Look at your time: You can either invest it, or you can spend it. [Time] is the greatest commodity in life. I wish I had known [that as a teenager]," McCarthy said. "I [also] told them to seek out mentors. You got to ask for help. You can't get through life alone."

The BEYA STEM conference also provides the Army with an opportunity to cultivate a diverse force, according to Brig. Gen. Shan K. Bagby, the deputy chief of staff for support, G-1/4/6, with U.S. Army Medical Command and the Army Dental Corps.

"Diversity is important for two reasons," Bagby said "[First,] it is important that people see themselves reflected, not just through the diversity around them, but the diversity in leadership -- so they know what's possible for themselves."

"[Second,] diversity makes sense, so you have the best minds working on tough problems. The more people you have in the game, the better the ideas," he added.
Once finished with his mentoring session, McCarthy went out of his way to connect with a group of U.S. Military Academy cadets. During their meeting, the under secretary discussed leadership and stressed the need to take care of Soldiers.

"I told them to focus on the fundamentals," he said. "Being a great platoon leader is being fundamentally sound, and understanding the written order -- whether it's verbal or written."

"They need to know how to give an operations order, how to mobilize your platoon against the commander's intent. It's the simple things like that that will make or break a platoon," he said. "If they're good at the fundamentals -- they will win."