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Public Affairs : 2014 Women's History Month

Celebrating Women's History Month 

Story and photo by Kathy Eastwood
Staff Writer
WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 12, 2014) — The annual Women’s History Month Luncheon, held March 7 at the West Point Club, celebrated “Women of Character, Courage and Commitment,” the theme for 2014. The guest speaker for the luncheon was Col. Patricia Collins, Division Chief, The Joint Staff, J33, National and Nuclear Command and Control.

Col. Diane Ryan, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership professor, introduced Collins, whom she has known for 20 years.

“Patty and I ran in the same circles in our assignments at Fort Bragg, N.C. and Fort Hood, Texas, and I use that term loosely because I never ran in the same circles, she ran circles around me,” Ryan said. “She has demonstrated character and courage and is a true champion in every sense of the word.”

Collins has 22 years in the Army and is an athlete of some renown. She competed in the Intermedix Ironman 70.3 in Augusta, Ga., last year as an amputee. Collins made the decision to amputate her leg below the knee in 2007, a year after a bicycle accident caused severe damage to her leg.

In keeping with the theme, Collins spoke about character, courage and commitment.

“In today’s news, we have all this bad information of some misconduct in our senior leaders,” Collins said. “The Chief of Staff of the Army said we’ve been tracking this conduct for 30 years. But because of the media and social media area, this becomes news quickly. So, no one is perfect. It’s not so much that you failed; it’s what you did the next day. Did you lie about it? Did you hide it?”

“There is a saying, ‘fail early and fail often’ because most often than not, this is where all your valuable lessons are learned.” Collins said. “Your friends are going to mess up as well, so you should be there for them when they fail as this is part of responsibility.

“Bad things are going to happen, and it all depends on how you react to it,” Collins added.

Collins talked about courage and used several personal and public anecdotal references in demonstrating courage.

Col. Patricia S. Collins, division chief at The Joint Staff, J33, National and Nuclear Command and Control, speaks at the 2014 Women’s History Month Observance Luncheon.

“Courage—one of the things about courage is that it’s not just physical courage but you need emotional courage, too,” Collins said. “Sometimes we are afraid to expand and try. I had a lot of job opportunities in my life. I had the courage to apply for those positions. Sure there was a possibility that I wouldn’t get it. The answer may be no, but it also may be yes.”

In 2009, she deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and commanded an Expeditionary Signal Battalion from 2010-2012.

Since her amputation, Collins has won four national championships and was the 2012 World Para-Triathlon Gold Medalist in her disability category.

Collins is also mother to her seven-year-old son Gabriel, whom she adopted in 2007 from Guatemala.

During the luncheon, the nominees and the recipient of the 2014 Margaret Chase Smith Leadership Award were announced.

“The award is given to a first class woman who demonstrated superior leadership across all three pillars of the academy; academic, military and physical as well one who exhibits commitment to diversity,” Ryan said. “The nominees collectively average a 3.5 grade point average and are accomplished athletes and demonstrated their leadership skills in their military positions and in other aspects of their life. Simply stated, these ladies rock.”

Class of 2014 Cadet Erin Mauldin received the Margaret Chase Smith Leadership Award.