Are we really going to an Army base? Will we see a tank? This is great! I can't believe we are going.
These were just some of the questions from and comments by 20 female students from Romulus Middle School as they boarded a school bus on a rainy, overcast Wednesday morning for a 30-minute ride to the Detroit Arsenal in Warren. The students were part of a group of 50 female students invited by the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command to attend its Women's History Month program on March 25 at the Detroit Arsenal.
The other students invited to attend the event were from Center Line High School and Oakland Schools.
The morning program included a panel discussion showcasing six women leaders, who discussed their careers, challenges, and philosophies concerning business and their personal lives. After the formal portion of the program, the students walked across the hall to the cafeteria to enjoy a pizza lunch and a surprise visit by the Honorable Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, who was one of the panelists from the morning session.
Other panel members were:
Dr. Jennifer A. Hitchcock, Senior Executive Service, director, research, technology and integration.
Sonya F. Sepahban, senior vice president, engineering development and technology, General Dynamics Land Systems.
Dr. Haifa Fakhouri, president and CEO, Arab American and Chaldean Council.
Angela G. Reyes, founder and director, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.
Deidre Lambert-Bounds, COO, Ignite Social Media.
Wearing a royal-blue jacket and a welcoming smile, Ms. Hammack entered the cafeteria and, after a short introduction, began to talk to them about her wishes for their future. She told them to volunteer for opportunities even when they felt uncomfortable, because they could learn so much from the experience and it would allow them to learn something new. She also told them to not expect to be good at everything, but that everyone is good at something.
She then asked the students whether they had any questions for her. With looks of surprise and delight, the students leaned in, and a flurry of hands with into the air, each student hoping Ms. Hammack would call on her and allow her to ask the assistant secretary a question.
The first question, asked by a student seated in the first row, was about how she got her job and what she does. Ms. Hammack explained that she got her job because she was recommended by several people because of her volunteer work on environmental issues and that she is responsible for all the Army installations throughout the world. She said that when she first took the job, she thought she would be responsible for only the installations and bases in the U.S., but shortly after she arrived for work her boss called her into his office and explained, "I forgot to tell you, but you are responsible for all of the Army bases and installations around the world."
There was a collective "wow" from the students as they tried to understand the scope and magnitude of the assistant secretary's job.
One student asked Ms. Hammack to name the subject in school that she would call her worst when she was growing up. She smiled and stated that it was English. She explained that while she was good at math, most engineers are not great at writing, so it was something that she had to work at in college. And she was glad she did, because one of her first jobs required that she write articles. The student nodded appreciatively, indicating that she was happy that the assistant secretary also had subjects in school that she had to work at.
For several minutes there was a rapid succession of questions, until the students were told it was time to return to school, but not before the young women posed for a "selfie" with Ms. Hammack and Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham, commanding general of the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.