From zipping up her first blue corduroy jacket to donning her Army service uniform, Major General Tammy Smith has worn her passion for leadership, character and agriculture on her sleeve. We caught up with her to chat about women in FFA and how a city kid took advantage of an education in agriculture.
Q: You have seen an incredible amount of the world, yet you still refer to yourself as a “townie.” How did you end up becoming an FFA member?
A: I grew up in a small town, and the center of activities in our school was either sports or FFA. We had a fantastic advisor, and he was so active that everyone wanted to be a part of what he was forming.
When I look back on competing in events, I realize what an amazing impact those events had on my success. Women in the workplace are often a bit invisible and aren’t always heard. Competing in parliamentary procedure taught me how to get someone’s attention when I had something important to say. Public speaking helped me develop skills to communicate clearly. Serving as the Oregon state FFA reporter helped me learn to make connections with people from all different backgrounds.
Q: It is incredible how often the skills developed through agricultural education prepare members for future careers. How did you make the decision to pursue a career in the Army?
A: I never even thought about the Army growing up. During my senior year, I was sitting around reading FFA New Horizons magazine and there was an advertisement that said “No money for college? Let the Army show you how.” I sent in the information card, and they sent me back a four-year ROTC scholarship. The tricky thing was that the scholarship came through right after I was elected to a state office. I wanted to fulfill my duties as the state reporter, but to do that, I had to turn down the scholarship. I applied once more the following year, and when I got the scholarship again, I knew I was meant to be in the Army. My entire career started from that one advertisement.
Q: Wow. Talk about taking advantage of opportunities that are presented to you!
A: Agreed! Even as I think about sending in that information card from the FFA New Horizons magazine, I don’t think the Army was targeting young women with that advertisement. Had things not changed in 1969 to allow women into the organization, I would not be where I am today.
I have served as the chief of Army reserve affairs in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, acted as the deputy commander for sustainment in Korea and am now a senior military advisor at the Pentagon. And that is all because I took advantage of the opportunities afforded me through the National FFA Organization.