RDECOM Recognizes Black History Month with a Black Army Leaders Panel Discussion
CCDC Chemical Biological Center Public Affairs | March 1st, 2018
The panelists, RDECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins; Adjutant General of Maryland Maj. Gen. Linda Singh; and U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Director Eric Moore, Ph.D., took turns answering questions during a Black History Month panel discussion.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) held a panel discussion titled African Americans in Times of War at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Post Theater on Feb. 26. More than 250 people from commands across the installation attended, including cadets from the Free State Challenge Academy.
The panelists, RDECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins; Adjutant General of Maryland Maj. Gen. Linda Singh; and Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Director Eric Moore, Ph.D., took turns answering questions about their personal paths as African Americans in the U.S. Army, their role models, and the special challenges and opportunities that came with their service.
Wins spoke movingly about overcoming self-doubt when facing racial attitudes in his youth. “Diversity was not always as welcome as it is today,” Wins said, “and when I was young I was stubborn enough to say, ‘You count me out, I count myself in.’” He said that failures happen to everyone. “What matters is how you overcome failure.” As an example, Wins said that when he felt he was failing in basketball in high school he would lie on his back by himself on the court visualizing making a basket, moving his hand in that motion over and over again, so that come game time he was ready. “Through repetition I had strength in competition.”
Moore shared with the audience some of the factors that led him to serve in the Army. “I started on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “I went to a historically black college where I encountered pathfinders and pioneers. They told us, ‘You must serve.’” He added that he was inspired by the books of Victor Frankel, a psychiatrist and philosopher who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. “Reading him taught me compassion and the importance of reaching out to accomplish goals.”
Moore also described moving with his family from Travis Air Force Base in California to Nashville, Tenn., and as a small child and encountering racial tensions for the first time. “I was about six or seven and an elderly teacher of about 70 — a white woman who grew up in the Old South — took a special interest in me. Her reaching out to me like that also helped make me a more compassionate person.”
Singh told the audience that she did not start out intending to serve, but at 16, she found herself homeless. One day, after spending the night sleeping in a mall storeroom, a recruiter for the Maryland National Guard who was at the mall persuaded her to enlist. “I wasn’t the ideal Soldier back then,” she said. “I was a single mother without transportation and received unsatisfactory performance reviews.” Then a first sergeant challenged her, “You should to go to college. “Then he said, ‘You like to boss people around, become an officer!’” She said that over the years, her Army service grew from, “being a paycheck to being a career to being a passion.”
Wins pointed with pride to the role of the Army as a progressive force in American life. “Of my seven research laboratory directors, almost half are minorities, this represents the diversity of RDECOM itself.” He added, “I am proud to be a part of the U.S. military where we lead the way in giving people a chance to serve their nation honorably.” Overall, 33 percent of enlisted Soldiers identify themselves as belonging to a minority and 22 percent of officers do.
Looking to the future, Moore told the audience that bringing diversity into the Army is more important than ever. “The average age of a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) employee in the Nation and the Army is over 50, we need to reach out for talent to replace them wherever we can.”
The panel discussion was followed by a food tasting and a display of Afro-centric art by a local artist.