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First lady among women who inspire Harrington to be role model

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By EVY LACY
Special to The Gold Standard
Editor’s note:
This is the first in a four-part story series for Women’s History Month.
Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment is the theme for Women’s History Month 2014. This year’s theme honors the many contributions women have made to history, culture and society. During the month of March, “The Gold Standard” will feature several extraordinary women whose accomplishments are the epitome of excellence.
Dr. Charmaine Harrington, chief of Professional Development and Training for the Army Center of Substance Abuse Programs wanted to see the world beyond St. Croix, Virgin Islands; where she grew up therefore, in 1980, she joined the United States Army as a logistician. Harrington said “My father instilled the value of education early in life for me and my nine siblings.” Further, “the movie the “Ditch Digger’s Daughters” depicts my upbringing and what my parents wanted for our lives.” Harrington’s military journey as a Soldier began at Fort Jackson, S.C. and would take several turns along the way as she pursued her education. After six years, Harrington elected to leave active duty to pursue her studies full time. Four years later, she decided to go into the active Guard/Reserve program. She eventually left the AGR program to work on a master’s degree in counseling psychology with a minor in marriage and family counseling. While in school, Harrington volunteered at numerous counseling centers to gain experience in her field. Upon graduation, Harrington was hired as the director of research/senior researcher at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Harrington said, “It was like a dream come true” and it was at Johns Hopkins University that she conducted her research for her dissertation and at Walden University (in Minnesota) where she attained her doctorate, a mere 10 years after beginning her educational journey.
Harrington’s dissertation was on adolescents and young adults that were injection drug users and as a health psychologist, Harrington is also a licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner and has many other certifications in her career field.
Although Harrington is working in her career field of choice, she didn’t abandon her life as a Soldier. She returned to the Army Reserves after a 10- year hiatus and will retire with 20 years of service in July.
When asked about courage, commitment, and character as it pertains to this month’s theme, Harrington said “Joining the Army and deploying to Iraq as a Soldier, contractor, and DoD civilian is one of the most courageous things I’ve done.” Further, “I have to set the example for my daughters by being resilient, which means dealing with adversity and not only overcoming, but moving barriers out of my way.” By doing so, Harrington said “I want to take care of the Soldiers who take care of me by providing them with the best service and resources.”
She added that her educational journey and career as a Soldier is evidence of her commitment to excellence and finishing what one starts.
“Regardless of rank, it is never too late to go back to school,” she said.
Some people she met along the way tried to discourage her from pursuing her doctorate degree by saying “it’s too hard for you.” However, she didn’t listen and was the first in her family to attain a doctorate degree and serve in the military.
One of her siblings has also attained her doctorate and both daughters are working diligently on their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Harrington said character to her is “Exercising integrity and morals in everything I do is how I shape my personal and professional life.”
During her journey, Harrington has worked as an adjunct professor at numerous colleges and universities throughout the United States. Harrington counts Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama among her role models. Harrington said “These women are intelligent, history makers, and inspire me to want to be like them as a role model and public servant.”