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Marcia M. Anderson -  Army's first female African-American major general

December 14, 2011

U.S. Army Human Resources Command's deputy commanding general became the Army's first-ever female African-American officer to obtain the rank of major general during her promotion and departure ceremony at the Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude Complex.

Maj. Gen Marcia M. Anderson left HRC for her new assignment.

Those who attended the proceedings were each "a witness to history," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commanding general of the U.S. Army Accessions Command and Fort Knox, who co-hosted the ceremony with HRC commander Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee.

"We honor a leader, an officer, a lawyer, a wife, a mother and a grandmother -- summed up, a great American," Freakley said.

Major generals lead major formations across the Army. They are the bridge between the operational and the tactical aspects of the Army, Freakley said. They run centers like Human Resources Command and command Army divisions of up to 16,000 Soldiers. They perform major tactical operations and conduct sustained battles and engagements.

"They build our Army, and that's no easy task!" Freakley said. "Marcia has assisted in the huge responsibility of moving three separate HRC commands to Fort Knox and combining their efforts into one great command."

The HRC commander lauded Anderson for her being an untiring advocate for consolidating the Active and Reserve Component functions at HRC.

"She has been very much the force behind the integration itself," Farrisee said. "She has worked diligently on total-force solutions while at the same time not letting the command forget the unique needs of the Reserve Component Soldiers we serve. Marcia's tenacity for integration extends into cyberspace. One of our top priorities has been for the HRC website to reflect virtually the integration we've turned into reality."

Anderson served the informational needs of the Soldiers to ensure that the most relevant information was available to them, Farrisee said.

Anderson's journey to becoming the Army's first female African-American major general was made up of things that were largely unplanned.

"I firmly believe that we are never in control of very much," she said. "The most we can do is have a set of values and beliefs, and adhere to them as closely as possible."

Anderson said she valued curiosity, tolerance and striving for excellence.

"Be a lifelong learner. Accept people for who they are. Accept change because it is inevitable," she said. "Do not expect to be rewarded just because you show up on time, do what is expected of you and leave at the same time every day, because that is merely C-grade work."

Anderson said she learned from peers and senior officers what it means to be a good leader, and she incorporated their advice into her personal leadership style:

"Good leadership is not about telling people what to do or how to do it -- it is knowing how to listen, when to delegate, how to provide space and resources to your staff, making sure they get the praise for a job well done," she said, "and that YOU take the responsibility when a plan fails."

Anderson's time at HRC has been a pivotal year. Anderson helped guide HRC as it completed the base realignment and closure, or BRAC, process months ahead of the congressionally mandated September 2011 deadline.

Continuing to communicate with HRC customers during BRAC was crucial to successfully combining HRC's three main elements in Alexandria, Va.; St. Louis and Indianapolis at one location at Fort Knox. Updating the hrc.army.mil website to reflect HRC's new location and contact information was just the beginning.

"My major project since I've been here has been to completely redesign the HRC website to make it more informative, more current and as interactive as possible for Soldiers, families and the public. There will be a completely new look, a brand-new search engine, podcasts. We've added the Facebook link," Anderson said. "My vision is that someday new Soldiers will be handed a smart phone with apps (software applications) available from the Army to help them manage their careers."

BRAC caused many changes at HRC. Many civilian employees took the opportunity to retire and stay in their communities. New employees were hired to take their places.

"It brought a lot of energy, but we were losing some of the institutional knowledge," Anderson said. "That required us to do some digging on processes that were already being done. It compelled us to look for more efficient and effective ways of doing things."

To accomplish that, HRC uses Lean Six Sigma, the Army's process-improvement methodology to support business transformation. LSS methods can improve any process, including those in a service-oriented organization like HRC.

"New employee training includes certification at the lowest level of LSS (white belt)," Anderson said. "We are not afraid of change. We embrace it. We are constantly working to find more efficient ways to improve the way we serve Soldiers and families of all components -- Active Duty, Army Reserve and National Guard."

Anderson stressed that all components are part of the Army family. What reminds her of that fact is a row of clocks: Kuwait, Afghanistan, Europe, Korea.

"When I see those, it makes me think of the Soldiers. They have a name on one side (of their uniforms), and the other side just says, 'U.S. Army.' Adversaries see that you are a member of the U.S. Army. By the same token, when Soldiers give an Afghan child a soccer ball or send a medical team out, all those people know is they're being helped by a member of the U.S. Army," she said. "If that's all they see, then that's all we should see, too."

Sept. 11, 2001, revealed how all components should always interact.

"Since 9/11, they've worked together. They didn't ask, 'What component are you from?' It didn't matter who you were. It was just about what you brought to the table. It was just about Soldiers getting the job done," Anderson said. "We use the talents of everyone to the fullest extent."

Anderson's background sculpted her into the personable, successful woman she is today.

Anderson attended an all-girl Catholic school in East St. Louis, Ill. It fostered excellence in young women that might be otherwise masked in a co-ed educational environment.

"Going to an all-girl high school definitely formed part of who I am today. You weren't trying to impress any boys. Excellence was valued. You were just doing what everybody else was doing. You were trying to excel," she said. "The faculty every day encouraged you to excel, and you just did. There were a lot of great role models among the faculty -- all very accomplished. They spent a lot of personal time with you."

Anderson said that experiencing that type of support leads to fulfilling your role models' expectations.

"You want to validate their faith and confidence in you, and it makes you excel," she said.

Family life, too, enhanced her search for knowledge.

"You were encouraged to be more aware of the world around you and curious. I never grew out of asking, 'Why?' The news was part of my house every evening. My mother took me to the library every Saturday," Anderson said.

Asking "Why are we doing that?" is still a big part of the way she does business, Anderson said.

As a child, Anderson was very shy. It was the Army that changed her. In her Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, course (which she only took to fulfill a science requirement), she was told, "Today, you're the platoon leader," and she had to starting talking to people.

"You couldn't sit in the corner anymore and observe," Anderson said.

A milestone in her personal development -- going from shy to outgoing -- was when a professor of hers told Anderson that if you're giving the speech, you're the subject-matter expert.

"You know more (about that subject) than anyone else in the room so don't worry about it," he said.

One by one, your life experiences make you who you are.

"You just get better and better," Anderson said. "It's not about the grades you get in school. It's what you do with it AFTERWARD that counts."

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