Brigadier Normal Janeen Birckhead, commander of the Maryland Army Nationwide Guard, was inducted this month into the Maryland Girls’s Corridor of Fame, the second Anne Arundel County resident to obtain the honour prior to now two years.
Birckhead was amongst 5 Maryland ladies inducted this 12 months. Final 12 months, scientist Mary Cleave, a former astronaut and the tenth American girl in area,, obtained the honour. Each ladies reside within the Annapolis space.
Annual inductions had been held in March throughout Girls’s Historical past Month. The opposite 4 2023 inductees had been Charlotte M. Cooksey, a retired District Court docket choose in Baltimore; Ana Sol Gutierrez, former Montgomery County board of schooling member, state delegate and the primary Latina elected to public workplace in Maryland; Gloria Lawlah, a former civil servant and state legislator from Prince George’s County and Edith “Jackie” Ronne, a polar explorer and the primary feminine member of an Antarctic expedition, whose household lived in Maryland for generations.
Birckhead and Cleave say they had been proud to be inducted, partly, due to the extremely achieved ladies inducted earlier than them.
Judith Vaughan-Prather, government director of the Maryland Fee for Girls, which manages the Maryland Girls’s Corridor of Fame, mentioned the inductees vary from former slaves to artists, scientists and social servants.
Among the corridor’s extra well-known inductees embody conservationist Rachel Carson and American Pink Cross founder Clara Barton. Others are ladies of decrease profile who deserved larger recognition, Vaughan-Prather mentioned, which is why the corridor issues.
“[Women’s] tales are sometimes hidden or forgotten,” she mentioned. “Girls and younger ladies want position fashions. We want to have the ability to see that girls can do this stuff and, in actual fact, have accomplished this stuff.”
Initially from Snow Hill, Maryland on the Japanese Shore, Birckhead, who was inducted March 16, bought concerned within the navy when her mom inspired her to use for a Reserve Officers’ Coaching Corps faculty scholarship.
“I had a cousin who went to the Air Power Academy, a 12 months older than me,” Birckhead mentioned. “[My mom is] considering, ‘That is nice. It’s best to give this a attempt, Janeen,’ and I believed ‘No, mommy. I do not need to go within the Army.'”
So her mom enticed her, telling her it could be a problem, which spoke to Birckhead’s aggressive spirit.
“‘I mentioned OK, Mommy, I will give it a attempt,'” she mentioned.
She bought the scholarship and enrolled at Hampton College, a traditionally Black college in Virginia. After graduating in 1991, Birckhead labored on Capitol Hill for the late U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes from Maryland. Sarbanes, who was succeeded by present Sen. Ben Cardin, was the daddy of U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, who represents elements of Anne Arundel County together with Annapolis.
After her time in Washington, Birckhead turned a state equal employment supervisor for the Maryland Nationwide Guard earlier than taking a place on the U.S. Division of Protection as an agent after which a particular agent in cost with the Protection Safety Service. Birckhead pursued careers each as a member of the navy and as a civilian all through her profession.
As Birckhead progressed by means of each careers, she performed key roles in historic moments in each Maryland and Washington. She led the state’s Nationwide Guard troops, in addition to 1000’s of others from throughout the nation, in response to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the place she mentioned Maryland had the primary Nationwide Guard on the bottom in assist. She was additionally appointed by former Gov. Larry Hogan to steer the Maryland Vaccine Fairness Activity Power in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watching her guard troops work with others from across the nation on Jan. 6 instilled pleasure in Birckhead.
“That is what the Army and what being within the Nationwide Guard prepares you to do, to return collectively as professionals and be capable to reply,” Birckhead mentioned. “You noticed it there. You see it within the Nationwide Guard whether or not it is floods or fires or whether or not it is going abroad; we’re at all times prepared, at all times there.”
In 1995, Birckhead moved to the Annapolis space and raised a daughter and son, each now in faculty.
Birckhead is now commander of the Maryland Army Nationwide Guard and serves because the deputy commandant for reserve affairs on the U.S. Army Warfare Faculty.
Her profession has impressed younger navy ladies, she’s found, one in every of whom not too long ago requested Birckhead to partake in her pinning ceremony promotion from Army main to lieutenant colonel.
It is necessary for younger ladies to see different ladies acknowledged for his or her achievements, Birckhead mentioned. That is how they learn about all of the profession prospects on the market for them, including she encourages younger ladies to attach with extra achieved feminine counterparts.
“‘Are they nonetheless dwelling? Can I attain out to them and provides them their flowers whereas they’re alive? Can I inform them what an inspiration to me they’re whereas they’re alive? I believe that’s necessary,” she mentioned.
Cleave, 76, was one in every of 5 Maryland ladies chosen in 2022. Along with being one of many first American ladies in area, she helped develop and lead tasks to assemble crucial details about the results of local weather change.
All the time fascinated by airplanes, Cleave began flying classes as a 14-year-old rising up on Lengthy Island, New York which she funded along with her babysitting cash.
“I could not perceive why my mom did not need to be my first passenger,” Cleave mentioned. “After I bought within the automotive with my nephew [who was learning to drive] I understood.”
Whereas Cleave had a powerful curiosity in aviation, she utilized to veterinarian faculty at Cornell College however was not accepted.
“They used to discriminate primarily based on gender in any respect the skilled faculties — vet faculty, legislation faculty, medical faculty. When Title IX went by means of, they needed to cease that,” Cleave mentioned. “It made an enormous distinction.”
She was accepted to Colorado State College’s pre-vet program, however when it got here time to use for vet faculty she bumped into the identical roadblock; the applications did not settle for ladies. She switched her focus to botany.
After Cleave obtained her bachelor’s diploma in organic sciences at Colorado State, and her grasp’s diploma from Utah State College, the varsity’s dean of the Faculty of Engineering requested her to think about a doctorate in engineering. With Title IX legislation, there was a brand new world of choices for Cleave to discover.
“It was the perfect factor that ever occurred to me,” Cleave mentioned, including that the dean instructed her she wanted to be an engineer as a result of she was “too rattling impatient to be a very good scientist.”
Partway by means of her doctorate, a colleague instructed her about an commercial on the native put up workplace. For the primary time, NASA was recruiting ladies, folks of colour and nonmilitary personnel for the astronaut class of 1978. It was a dream job for Cleave — flying and science collectively.
NASA representatives instructed Cleave they wished her to finish her doctorate first, which she did earlier than becoming a member of the following astronaut class in 1980. The choice meant she missed out on becoming a member of the nation’s first co-ed astronaut class and the possibility to change into the primary American girl in area, a title held by Sally Trip, however she was glad she completed her diploma.
Cleave took her first area shuttle flight in 1985, Cleave turned the tenth girl in area. On and her second flight in 1989, when her group deployed the Magellan spacecraft on its journey to Venus.
Cleave took her first flight aboard the area shuttle in 1985, turning into the tenth American girl in area. On her second flight in 1989, her group deployed the Magellan spacecraft on its journey to Venus.
Between her two flights, the Challenger catastrophe had occurred and Cleave went to work on crew tools points following the mission. On her second shuttle flight, as she regarded down on the Amazon rainforest, she had a realization that she wished to return to environmental analysis.
“Wanting on the Earth, notably the Amazon rainforest, the quantity of deforestation I might see, simply within the 5 years between my two area flights down there, scared the hell out of me,” Cleave mentioned.
In 1991, Cleave moved to Annapolis to be nearer to her growing old dad and mom, which led her to NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Middle, dwelling of the company’s environmental spacecraft applications.
At Goddard, Cleave managed a undertaking to measure all of the phytoplankton within the ocean by way of spacecraft, growing fashions to know carbon dioxide increase within the environment.
“You want good knowledge to fill in these fashions,” Cleave mentioned. “This was an enormous lacking piece of the puzzle.”
Cleave went on to do different work gathering knowledge from area to assist scientists higher perceive local weather change. She additionally briefly labored on redesigning the proposal for the Worldwide Area Station after which she was requested to work at NASA headquarters in Washington.
“Someone has to go over to the Hill and clarify to these guys why it is necessary to place their cash on this,” Cleave mentioned.
She retired from NASA in 2007 and has been having fun with all Annapolis has to supply, particularly solar rises over the Chesapeake Bay. She joined the Annapolis Rowing Membership, which helped her tackle bone density loss suffered whereas spending time in area. She additionally started volunteering d with the Anne Arundel County League of Girls Voters and now belongs to the Anne Arundel County Hen Membership. She additionally mentors college students by means of the Astronaut Scholarship Basis.
“I actually spend time hoping I will have an effect on the younger girls,” Cleave mentioned.
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