Generally Speaking: Baylor ROTC Alum Gives Current Cadets Advice
Brig. Gen. Maria C. Owens was suffering from jet lag, having just flown in from a two-week tour of European Command, including stops at Kosovo and Bosnia. But rather than going straight home for a little R&R, the Baylor alumna returned to her alma mater to speak to current Air Force ROTC cadets at the annual dining out, which is similar to a military ball.
"I wanted to speak with these students to tell them how special it is to be an Air Force officer who has graduated from Baylor," she said. "We are a nation that looks forward, but these students also need to look back at the legacy that they will inherit from Baylor and its alumni who have served in the military."
While her Baylor degree is in sociology, Owens said the Air Force gave her the functional skills she needed to do her job. But she emphasizes that the whole Baylor experience prepared her for life in the Air Force.
"I feel that Baylor's primary objectives are leadership and service," she said. "The university places a great deal of value in those. Character, leadership and service are the basic tenets of the U.S. Air Force and that is almost exactly what Baylor tries to instill in its students."
When Owens graduated from Baylor in 1975, she was one of only two women in the university's ROTC program. But she and her fellow graduate, Jan "Denny" Eakle, were high achievers who both have obtained the rank of Brigadier General.
"My opinion is the Air Force is the service to be in for a woman," Owens said. "While it is true that most of my mentors have been men, I have found that every opportunity that a man has, a woman has that, too. The Air Force isn't so much focused on whether you are a man or a woman, but whether you can do the job."
For her job, Owen has served as a personnel officer on the air staff at the Air Force Personnel Center and Headquarters European Command, as well as holding positions as director of executive support for Headquarters Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base; commander, 436th Support Group, at Dover Air Force Base; and commander of the Air Force Inspection Agency, Kirtland Air Force. Prior to her current assignment, she served as the chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Homeland Security and as the executive secretary for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she directed the administrative support staff of the secretary. She was the primary OSD liaison with the White House, National Security Council and State Department.
Currently, Owens is director for manpower and personnel and is responsible for providing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with manpower and personnel advice and support. Part of her job is to visit the different Air Force commands (hence her trip to Kosovo and Bosnia) to determine what the Joint Staff can do to help them from a manpower and personnel perspective.
Earlier, this year, she went to Central Command (southwest Asia) and flew into Baghdad to visit with the military commander staff and the coalition provisional authority.
"The most interesting experience was just talking with the troops. You hear a lot of negative stories, but a majority of these young men and women have conducted themselves with so much class. They have not embarrassed us and have been first-class representatives of this country," she said.