‘There is a different way’

Brig. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford responds to questions from Frederick Douglass High School JROTc students during a recent visit to the school to talk about STEM and opportunities available at Aberdeen Proving Ground through the Pathways intern program. | U.S. Army photo by Mary B. Grimes, CECOM Public Affairs.

CECOM leader takes message of opportunity to Baltimore high school

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future,” is a sentiment that while expressed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, was shared by Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, and APG senior installation commander, during a recent visit to Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Accompanied by Maria Layton, chief, Resource Development, CECOM-G1, and CECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew McCoy, the visit by Crawford and his team provided an opportunity for a lucrative exchange between school officials, members of the Junior ROTC program, and other students regarding the availability of APG resources through outreach partnerships and programs.

FDHS Principal Kelvin Bridgers, and Teri Ray, community school coordinator, welcomed the APG contingent to the historic campus. They briefed them on the current programs available to FDHS students, provided insights into some of the school’s challenges past and present, and shared their vision for the future.

“The discussion held here today gives us some scope, and range that seems to be unlimited,” said Bridgers.

Using science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, as a springboard for discussion, Crawford delivered a message of opportunity to JROTC and other members of the student body. “Aberdeen is the ‘center of gravity’ for the whole Army — for testing, for research and development and for equipping in Information Technology and intelligence equipment. It’s the ‘center of gravity’ for the Army and much of the Department of Defense,” said Crawford. “There are a lot of opportunities there, but the people who are able to leverage those opportunities, are the people who know about them. What I’m trying to do is increase knowledge of what happens on Aberdeen Proving Ground so that our youth have an opportunity to access those available resources.”

Paths to success

The Pathways Programs, which is administered by the U.S. State Department, provides a clear path to federal internships for students from high school through post-graduate school and to careers for recent graduates, as well as meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals who are at the beginning of their federal service. In the Pathways Program, students or recent graduates can begin careers in the federal government by choosing the path that best outlines and describes where they stand academically.

“When I entered the building this morning, I spoke with a young man who says he wants to work with his hands. Well that’s good, but you have to get a foundational education. In order to work with your hands, you want to be the guy who designs the building, and builds the building,” said Crawford. “Much of the ‘cool stuff’ seen on posters depicting Soldiers performing or operating equipment that’s in helicopters, equipment that’s in tanks, robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles, driverless vehicles –the development of that kind of technology for the military — that’s what we do on Aberdeen Proving Ground.”

A career Soldier of more than 30 years, Crawford shared a personal side of his life with the Baltimore students, while encouraging them to seek out good mentors and to keep their options open.

A painting depicting Frederick Douglass seated at a table with other African-American historical figures such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and W.E.B. Dubois, captures the attention of Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford during a recent visit to Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo by Mary B. Grimes, CECOM Public Affairs.

“I was a decent student, but I wasn’t a really good student because at that time, I didn’t work at it. But what I did is I almost shortcut myself, and I almost caused myself not to have an opportunity. So there I was, a senior in high school with no plan. A senior in high school with no idea of what I was going to do with myself. That is, until one day an instructor came along and inspired me…showed me that there is a different way.”

Opening the floor to discussion, students discharged a salvo of questions at the CECOM Commanding General that ranged from ‘when did you make up your mind to go into the military?’ ‘Was it fun jumping out of airplanes?’ and ‘How do you keep a positive attitude as a mentor?’

Moved by the levity and sincerity of their questions, Crawford said, “There’s somebody who’s coming up behind you. It may be a family member, fellow student, someone who looks up to you because of what you’re doing right now. You might not think that because you can’t see it. I encourage you to share what you learn here in JROTC and at Frederick Douglass High School, and be willing to reach back. Go back to your middle school, and talk to kids about what it’s like to be in high school because they’re going to listen to you. Tell them about you and your life experiences. Be willing to reach back and mentor others. There is the expectation that you are going to give back, once you have progressed.”

A Frederick Douglass High School student and JROTC cadet listens as CECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford explains the importance of education, finding a good mentor, and keeping goals and options open during a recent visit to the Baltimore school. | U.S. Army photo by Mary B. Grimes, CECOM Public Affairs.

Outreach advantage

Calling the numerous opportunities and outreach efforts made by the APG team, “welcome,” and the timing, “phenomenal,” Bridgers said the school is looking forward to developing a strong community partnership with APG.

“We’re in the age of ‘live’ — everything has to be live for kids today. You can’t just fictitiously create some of these things. This is a great opportunity for us because our kids would get an opportunity to actually see it. Feel the people, and touch the people. We definitely appreciate APG. We appreciate the outreach and for stopping here at Frederick Douglass,” he stated.

Echoing a similar response, Layton summed up the visit by stating, “The purpose of our CECOM outreach efforts is to educate surrounding communities about APG and its mission, as well as identify opportunities to support those communities. During today’s visit, Maj. Gen. Crawford successfully addressed both of those objectives. We leave here knowing that FDHS students now know more about Aberdeen Proving Ground, and that school administrators are looking forward to working with us in the future to explore greater opportunities for their students.”

About APG

The sixth largest employer in Maryland, APG has more than 22,000 civilian, military and contractor employees. Its diverse professional backdrop embraces career and intern opportunities that include scientists, engineers, chemical and biological specialists, Information Technology analysts, legal, contracting and cyber-security engineers.

The APG economic impact on the region spans $6.5 billion – $2.4 billion of which was earmarked for small businesses in fiscal year 2016.

A high tech and vibrant business environment, a government research position at APG promotes researchers’ abilities to not only try new ideas, but enjoy the benefits of selecting the direction of their research for creativity through hands-on lab expertise, mentorship programs, travel opportunities, and field experience that ultimately helps America’s Warfighters serving in harm’s way.

As a community that embraces true partnership, the installation hosts a STEM Outreach Center where students can interact directly with science and engineering professionals. Occupying more than 72,500 acres in Harford County, Maryland, APG is in close partnerships with several local organizations such as the Maryland National Guard’s Freestate Challenge Academy which offers at-risk youth the chance to gain a sense of duty and selfless service to their community and nation while pursuing educational goals.

By Mary B. Grimes, CECOM Public Affairs

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