WASHINGTON -- Growing up in a small fishing village on the southeast coast of China, Meirong never imagined that one day she’d be recognized as an elite leader in the U.S. Army.Chief Warrant Officer 2 Meirong Magee was recently selected for the Army’s prestigious Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. The human resources technician at 25th Infantry Division is one of only four warrant officers and two dozen captains to receive the Army-level award this year for exemplifying the ideals of duty, honor and country.“It was not an easy path for me to be where I am and who I am today,” she said. “I cannot thank enough my past and present leaders and mentors who believed in me and guided me along the way.” She added the award is actually a reflection of their leadership.Fisherman’s daughterMei Wang was born in Dong Tou, a village in China’s Fujian Province where “everybody knows each other,” she said.Her father was a fisherman and her mother was a housewife. Her hometown was southeast of Fuzhou, a city with a population of about 7 million and the capital of the province.Fuzhou had been a thriving seaport since the days of the Ming Dynasty when fleets sailed down the Min River to the Indian Ocean, the Philippines, and on to Africa. In the 1800s, the city was known to westerners as Foochow, and it was one of five cities in China completely open to western trade and missionaries.Mei’s family lived in Lianjiang County, directly across from the island of Taiwan. Beginning in the late 1980s, the people of her county began a massive emigration to western nations like the United Kingdom and the U.S.As a young girl, Mei actually had dreams of someday joining the People’s Liberation Army in China. After beginning school, though, she was impressed with her instructors there and decided to aim her sights instead on becoming a teacher.She attended Lianjiang Shangde High School, which she said is one of the best schools in the area to prepare students for college.“It was very competitive,” she added.She was accepted at Quanzhou Normal University, located about 125 miles south in the historical city of Quanzhou, the starting point of the ancient Maritime Silk Road. At the university there, she studied hard for more than three years to become a physics teacher.Faced with a dilemmaJust months before graduation, however, she received word that her family had been accepted for immigration into the United States. She was given the choice of either finishing college or going with her family, she said. She chose to accompany her family.She immigrated to the United States in March 2007 and her family eventually settled in Braintree, Massachusetts. But before long, she was offered a job by her father’s friend, who owned a Chinese restaurant in Savannah, Georgia.“People from my hometown basically either own a Chinese food place, or they work at a Chinese food place,” she said.Mei had learned some basic English words in high school and college, she said, but couldn’t hold a full conversation. She felt lucky, she said, that she was given a chance to work as a waitress and learn the language.After four months, though, she aspired to do more than wait on customers. “I started wondering what the purpose of my life was, and I realized that I didn’t want to do what I was doing for the next 10 years,” she said.New adventureOne day while serving a Chinese-American customer, she learned he was a U.S. Soldier and they began talking about the profession.“‘I said, ‘You know what, let me give it a try.’ I had a dream to be a Soldier. So I went ahead and took a test,” she said.She’s an “adventure person” at heart, she said. So in October 2007, she enlisted in the Army.“It wasn’t easy at the beginning,” she said, because of the language barrier. She only understood about a third of what they were telling her at the Military Entrance Processing Station, she said, and was unsure of everything she was committing to.“I’m not a big fan of working outside,” she said, so they put her in a job working inside -- an HR position which requires a high level of the English language.“But I met great people,” she said, who helped and mentored her.“The people around me supported me and believed in me,” she said. “They got me to where I am today.”At her first duty station, Fort Carson, Colorado, she was assigned to the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division. Her NCOIC was Sgt. 1st Class Jason Coulter and Mei said he was the first leader “who truly believed in me.”He taught her the importance of understanding each Soldier’s motivation.“Know how to find your Soldiers’ motivation,” she said. “It’s not until you understand them that you can put a team together.”She deployed with her team to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in May 2009. One of her duties was to make the mail run for her unit from Forward Operating Base Finley Shields to FOB Fenty and back.After returning to Fort Carson in May 2010, the specialist grew closer to Spc. Michael Magee, a power generator mechanic. The two married the following year.New rankMei said she has made an effort to understand the roles and responsibilities of all Soldiers.“I’m more of a technical person,” she said. “I really enjoy making the process better.”That’s why she was really attracted to the role of the warrant officer as a technical expert. She perceived one of their missions “was to make life easier.”She saw that NCOs were focused on taking care of Soldiers. But warrant officers went beyond that and were also focused on the system. “Is the system effective enough; is the [right] policy in place?” she gave as an example.“Warrant officers take a broader view,” she added.She was a staff sergeant promotable when she was appointed an adjutant general warrant officer in 2016.Warrant officers have a unique and wonderful community, she said, adding that she’s proud to be part of the cohort.Remembering her heritageMei said she is also proud of her heritage. She still does her best to join her family in celebrating the Chinese New Year, which falls in late January or early February, depending upon the lunar calendar.“The Lunar New Year is all about getting together and enjoying the food,” she said. “I’m a huge foodie.”She also keeps in contact with her sister, who still works back in Fujian province. They keep in contact through online chatting apps, she said. “I visited her a few times in the past,” Mei said, “but not in recent years.”Her favorite author is a Chinese writer who went by the pen name Sanmao. After living in the Sahara Desert and traveling around Africa, Sanmao wrote one of her most acclaimed books, “The Stories of Sahara.”“I don't think I will like a desert,” Mei said, “but I want to check it out because of my favorite writer.”Mei said “one of her biggest supporters” is still her mother, who came to visit her two years ago in Hawaii, along with her father and younger brother.Aloha place“Hawaii is such a spiritual, Aloha place,” she said. “I really enjoy it.”“The most relaxing thing I can do is ride my jeep around the island” with the windows down listening to music, she said. “There’s nothing better than that.“The breeze is perfect. The weather is perfect. People are always so friendly. I really enjoy Hawaii.”She and her husband, now a staff sergeant, have visited most of the other islands in Hawaii -- Kauai, the big island of Hawaii, and Maui.“Oahu is beautiful and has many of the best sights and beaches, but it is a little too crowded,” she said. Maui is my favorite so far.”She likes to travel and hike, she said, and enjoys checking out different cultures and meeting new people.New commandMei is getting to know new people now at the 25th Infantry Division, having just transferred there a few weeks ago from the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade. The brigade commander there actually nominated her for the MacArthur award.When she moves to a new location, she tries to spend time in one-on-one conversations to understand the Soldiers, she said. Some have clear goals. Others she must “help them to find their motivation.”“I wouldn’t say that I can read people well, but I do my best to get to know them,” she added.Respecting each other is the most important thing, she said.“The Army is a melting pot,” she said. “I got to meet a lot of people from different cultures.”She doesn’t believe the values of the people in China and America are all that different. “I think human beings -- no matter what race or color, what country” –- they are the same deep down. They all share the same “key core value” of caring about each other.It’s important to care for your Soldiers, she said, “because it’s not about you, it’s about how can you serve them.”When not caring for Soldiers, Mei is volunteering for non-profit organizations on Hawaii. She has been spending her weekends to assist the North Shore Community Land Trust to “protect, steward, and enhance the natural landscapes and cultural heritage”. Once she retires from the Army, she’d like to dedicate her full energy to serving a non-profit group, she said.“Leadership is all about caring, being agile and serving others,” she said. “The philosophy has been the same since I learned that from Command Sgt. Maj. Christian Carr, one of my significate mentors in my early military career.“The Army has made me a better leader to understand the true meaning of serving others,” she said.(Editor’s note: MacArthur Leadership awards are normally presented by the chief of staff of the Army in May or early June at the Pentagon. This year, due to COVID-19, the ceremony has been tentatively moved to October.)Related linksArmy.mil: Asian Pacific Americans in the U.S. ArmySTAND TO!: Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage MonthArmy.mil: Worldwide NewsArmy.mil: Soldier Features