Fort Belvoir's Military Intelligence Readiness Command hosted one of the most highly decorated females in military history during its Black History Month cultural observance Tuesday.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michele Jones, the first female command sergeant major of any Army component, spoke to Soldiers and civilians about leaving a legacy.

The ceremony, hosted in the John Singleton Mosby Army Center, featured traditional African American food and a singing of the African American national hymn, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," by James Weldon Johnson.

Jones's, who now serves as the Director of the External Veterans/Military Affairs and Community Outreach for President Barrack Obama's administration, provided observance attendees with her perspective on the importance of leadership and blazing a path for others to follow.

Jones controlled the attention with her charisma, a faceless doll and magic wand.

These tools are fitting for a person who aims to be judged solely by her character and actions.

"Being an African American, that's something I was born with. It doesn't define who I am as a person," Jones said.

Jones grew up in the Baltimore area with many positive role models. Her mother taught her to be strong and inspired her to work hard and her grandmothers taught her the importance of giving back, loving life and the value of faith.

Jones was also heavily influenced by another factor as a youth that still inspires her today, the word "No."

"You tell me, 'No I can't,' and that just means, 'I can,'" Jones said. "Not in a defiant way but I never put limitations on myself."

Jones said she was always a go-getter in her youth, even becoming a cheerleader for the former National Football League team, the Baltimore Colts, as a high school student.

"It's a huge audience and some people are waiting for you to mess up," said Jones comparing the similarities between cheerleading in the NFL and serving as an Army noncommissioned officer in charge. "I was born a leader and then it was fine tuned in the Army."

Jones' 25 year career began in 1982 as a paralegal with the goal of becoming a Supreme Court justice but she quickly realized her true calling after watching sergeants lead Soldiers.

She wanted to lead her own group of men and women and maximize their potential as people.

Her passion and skill propelled her success.

Jones became the first woman selected as class president at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy and the first woman to serve as a division command sergeant major. She served as the Army Reserve command sergeant major from 2002 to 2006 and a year later she retired as the highest female noncommissioned officer in the Army.

She's received numerous awards for her accomplishments including being recognized as one of the 35 World's Most Remarkable Women in Essence Magazine's Anniversary Edition.

"All those accolades, absolutely wonderful," said Angela Powers, MIRC Equal Opportunity Program Manager, who served with Jones at Fort Bragg, N.C. "I didn't realize how much she's accomplished.
She's had an outstanding career."

Despite the accomplishments, recognitions and numerous job titles, Jones said her main objective has always been to make people better.

"A title never means anything unless you use it for the benefit of someone else. If you're the first it doesn't matter if you don't kick open the doors for others to follow," Jones said. "It's not about you."

Jones challenged observance attendees to leave a legacy of their own for future generations to build upon, outlining keys to blazing a path for others to follow.

She talked about her "Bone Theory," which consist of four bones representing four characteristics that she believes are vital to success. The bones equate to: Courage; Believing in one's abilities; Ignoring the naysayers; and Taking advantage of opportunities.

She also spoke about being a more effective leader and provided tips such as sharing knowledge, being accountable and empowering team members.

"It's was very inspirational. She not only speaks to black females but to everyone," said CWO3 Monica Petersen-Smith, MIRC team chief of the Reserve personnel division. "Any of us can be in a position that she's in. Your race or gender doesn't matter."

Jones concluded her speech by showing servicemembers and civilians a faceless doll and a wand that she carries with her everyday.

The doll reminds her that ethnicity, gender or faith does not matter when it comes to helping people. The goal is to help as many as possible.

The wand, which has a mirror attached to it, reminds the Jones that her wishes for other upon other people ultimately come back to her.