By Susan N Garling, Fort Lee Public Affairs

FORT LEE, VA. – Fifth grade girls from Richmond’s George Carver Elementary School thought they had seen it all after touring the U.S. Army Women’s Museum here April 15. They were amazed at the stories and intrigued by the unique hands-on displays.

Additionally, Command Sgt. Maj. Ruth Potter, 71st Transportation Battalion, was scheduled to meet with them in the classroom. She was scheduled to discuss women in the Army and the many roles they play, however, that did not happen.

Instead, she came into the museum briskly, and said, “I have an idea! Let’s take these girls to my unit and let them see an awards ceremony with the entire battalion.” And with that, this small group of girls were on their way to see something most civilians touring Fort Lee never get to see.

Before entering the Army Logistics University, Potter could be heard telling the girls, “This is where Soldiers come to learn. You can be anything you want. Get your education, stay away from the boys and bullies, set the example and have respect for yourself.”

As Soldiers walked by, she told them, “This is your future” to which they would respond, “Hooah!”

As the girls walked out on the parade field and witnessed the hundreds of Soldiers standing before them in formation, they were in awe. They saw Potter address the troops in a loud and orderly tone. They seemed momentarily taken aback until they realized this female Soldier was telling them what to do. These young girls where getting a first-hand look at the military from the inside.

Potter then asked, “How many of you are planning to join the military?”

More hands went up than not.

Col. Robert Mann, 71st Transportation Battalion commander, welcomed the girls and shared with them his thoughts on the role education can play in their lives. They were then privy to watching three Soldiers being recognized for their dedication and going above and beyond. The girls were taking it all in.

Before they knew it, Potter was taking them through the halls of ALU and straight into a classroom. There, it became clear to everyone in attendance she was determined to inspire these young minds and leave them with a powerful message – for some, possibly life-changing. Potter explained to them in her unique, attention-getting manner, “For those of you who don’t want to be a Soldier, you can play just as important a role by serving your country as a civilian employee, supporting the Soldiers.”

The girls then had an opportunity to talk briefly with students from foreign lands. The moment was one of fascination and inspiration. What was taking place was of great interest to them, something they had not experienced before.

Upon leaving, Potter asked in a loud and orderly tone, “What is your No. 1 priority?” To which they responded in a loud voice, “Education!”

“And what’s your second priority?”

“Respect for self and others,” the girls replied.

On the way out of ALU, Potter led the girls briskly through one office. Military members stopped working momentarily to offer advice such as “Get your education; keep working hard; you can do it.”

The teachers on the tour were amazed by Potter’s passion to inspire these girls and her willingness to go out of her way to make a difference in their lives. They were told it’s not every day civilians are allowed to walk the halls of ALU and take part in a military award ceremony.

Potter left an indelible mark and showed these young girls firsthand the important roles women play in the military. “Each one of these girls can grow up to be a Soldier, a leader, a teacher, a professional – anything they want to be,” Potter said.