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The Emma Marie Baird Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service - Background

Background | Purpose | Eligibility | Nominating Procedures | Format | Archive



The Emma Marie Baird Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was established 29 August 1988 to memorialize the late Lieutenant Colonel Emma Marie Baird (USA Retired) who is considered the founder of Army Community Service.

Emma Marie Baird
BIOGRAPHY: Lieutenant Colonel Emma Marie Baird was born on 19 October 1912 in Chanute, Kansas. She served in the United States Army for 24 years and was one of the first women to join the newly formed Women's Army Corps in 1942. During World War II, she was assigned to Army Emergency Relief in New York City. After the war, she was discharged and remained in the Reserves until she was recalled to active duty in 1951 during the Korean War. In 1957, she became the first woman ever assigned to the U.S. Military Academy staff and faculty serving as the Personnel Officer.

Initial action to establish an official "family assistance" program was taken by the Army DCSPER, LTG J. L. Richardson. In October 1963 General Richardson requested that a qualified WAC Officer be assigned to Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (ODSPER) to develop a plan for the creation of an Army-wide community social service program. LTC Emma Marie Baird was nominated and selected for the assignment in December 1963 and was assigned to the Pentagon.

There she initiated work to establish a program addressing the growing needs of military families. She recognized that as the composition of the Army changed, the normal problems of family life combined with the special circumstances of military living affected the morale and retention of active duty soldiers. Many who would have made the Army a career left due to pressure from family members dissatisfied with military life. LTC William Rooney was assigned as the social work consultant. Largely because both LTC Rooney and LTC Baird had a working knowledge of the New York City WW II AER Office, the organization design of the ACS plan was based upon this office.

As a result of her efforts, the Army Chief of Staff, General Harold K. Johnson, announced on July 25, 1965 the creation of Army Community Service. Later that same year, regulation was issued outlining the procedures for establishing Army Community Service at Army installations throughout the world. LTC Baird was twice presented the Legion of Merit for her work and became affectionately known as the "Founder of Army Community Service," the "pioneer of today’s Army Family Programs," and as the "Mother of ACS." LTC Baird was known as being a mentor in the most supportive possible way to the volunteers who were trying to grow into leadership responsibility. A great debt is owed to her from all of us who work on behalf of Army families. Her foresight and unfaltering dedication were the cornerstone upon which Army Community Service was built.

After her retirement in 1968 at Fort Sam Houston, LTC Baird remained active with Army Community Service programs throughout the country, but especially with the Fort Bliss Army Community Service where she regularly volunteered her time. There she received numerous honors from local and national political and women’s groups. The El Paso Women’s Political Caucus named her 1987 Woman of the Year in Military Service.

LTC Baird’s education also began in San Antonio where she graduated from Breckenridge High School and San Antonio College. She later graduated from Loyola University of the South in New Orleans and received her master’s degree in sociology from the University of Virginia.

On 7 October 1987 LTC Emma Marie Baird died. The U. S. Army Community and Family Support Center proposed a Memorial Award for Outstanding Volunteers be created to honor LTC Baird. This award was approved by the Secretary of the Army on 29 August 1988. Since that time the award has been presented to those volunteers who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication and sustained service to Army Community Service. At the same time approval was granted to donate many personal items from her estate for permanent display in the Pentagon’s Women’s Corridor.