By Kathleen Wright Area 10 Director email@example.com
On 14 and 15 March 2011, over 100 active duty female Marines joined 1,200 other female service members in attending the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium which was hosted by the Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA). Attendees representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard came together to CONNECT, EMPOWER, and SUCCEED which was the theme for this year’s symposium.
Day one found all 1,300 attendees meeting together to hear motivational speakers such as Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and Ms. Geena Davis, American Actress, film producer, writer, former fashion model, and a women’s Olympics archery team semi-finalist.
At noon, all 1,300 attendees moved into a large tent for lunch, presentation of leadership awards and a speech by Ms. Tammy Duckworth, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. Duckworth was an Army black hawk pilot serving in Iraq when an rocket propelled grenade struck her aircraft causing her to lose both legs. In spite of her injuries, the pilots were able to safely land the helicopter and prevent additional injuries to the crew. To say that she was an inspirational speaker would be an under statement. In spite of injuries which left her with two artificial legs, she refused to accept a disability pension, has remained in the Army reserves, has earned a civilian pilot license and continues to work on behalf of military veterans every day.
The Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard presented leadership awards to their outstanding female leaders. The Marine Corps winners were presented with the Major Megan McClung Leadership Award by MajGen Tracy Garrett who is currently serving as the Commanding General, 4th Marine Logistics Group and is a life member of WMA. The Senior Officer award was presented to LtCol Katherine M. McDonald, Staff Judge Advocate, MCB, Camp Lejeune; the Junior Officer award was presented to Capt Lorena Childers, MARFORRES Staff Secretary, Marine Forces Reserve and a member of WMA; and the Senior Enlisted award was presented to SgtMaj Laura Brown, MAG 36, 1st MAW, Okinawa, Japan and a life member of WMA. Congratulations to all of these exceptional Marines. The winners also received a two year membership from WMA in recognition of their achievements.
Day one also provided the attendees with two panel discussions that were informative and gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions. The morning panel was on “Women Building Global Security and Stability” and was moderated by Ms. Elisabeth Bumiller, a New York Times Journalist. Panelists included several civilian women who work in various security fields and our own LtCol Julie Nethercot, Commanding Officer, 9th Communication Battalion. LtCol Nethercot was instrumental in forming and training the Female Engagement Teams currently performing so successfully in Afghanistan. She told the attendees that they expected the women to be successful in dealing with local women, but a surprise benefit was that the local men viewed the FET members as a “third” and non-threatening sex and were therefore willing to communicate with the women more openly than with the male Marines.
In the afternoon, LCDR Jean Marine Sullivan, Director of Naval Personnel’s Office of Women’s Policy served as moderator for the “Female General Officer Panel” which included general officers from each of the major services. The panel was composed of two 3-star, two 2-star and one 1-star general officers including our own MajGen Tracy Garrett. The moderator asked excellent questions which the panel answered openly and honestly and then the panel fielded questions from the floor. It was very interesting to hear of some of the challenges these women had faced as they moved up in rank and were assigned to command organizations that were previously commanded only by men. Some of these women were married and had to handle both career and family demands and some were single. It just proved that females experience challenges at all levels and they can be met and overcome.
In the evenings, there were networking socials where women from all the services could meet, exchange experiences, develop new sources, acquire information from various sponsors and enjoy live entertainment from a Navy rock band called the “Destroyers” on the 13th and a combo from the USMC Southern California Marine Band on the 14th. Additionally, Tamara Sanchez, Randy Tidmore and Nancy Brock from Chapter CA-2 set up a WMA table at noon on the 14 and handed out many applications for WMA. In the evening, Tamara Sanchez and Kathy Wright, the Area 10 Director manned the table at the social and met many wonderful ladies from not only the Marine Corps, but also from the other services. Congratulations to CA-2 for a job well done.
On day two of the symposium, each of the services split and held sessions to address service specific topics. The Marine Corps started with a motivational speech by LtGen Dennis J. Hejlik, Commander, U.S. Marine Forces Command. The General discussed the importance of mentoring by officers, SNCOs, and NCOs. This is a topic of particular value to the female Marines because they are integrated into male dominated units where availability of female mentors is often very limited. This theme continued through presentations by LtGen Carol Mutter USMC (Ret) and MajGen Angela Salinas, Director, Manpower Management Division, HQMC. We had female Marines of all ranks from PFC through LtGen representing commands on both coasts and Okinawa; they learned that there are also mentoring organizations such as “Academy Women” who can provide one-on-one mentoring by women of similar backgrounds.
In the afternoon, we split into officer and enlisted groups and this was where the rubber met the road. Instead of a formal panel discussion, all the enlisted personnel gathered in an informal setting where junior personnel could ask any question relating to their careers and the questions were handled by the SNCOs. It was perhaps the first time the junior personnel had been given access to that much mentoring from women who had experienced all the same challenges they were facing and could offer meaningful solutions or suggestions. The questions addressed problems with online service records, handling child care issues, service on the drill field, getting stationed with or away from husbands, etc. It was a very beneficial and informative session.
Next year, the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium will be held in Washington, D.C. This program is endorsed by the Marine Corps and HQMC funded 50 attendees to this conference. If you are interested in attending this excellent symposium, be sure to submit your request as soon as the MARADMIN is published because the openings are rapidly filled. Local commands may also sponsor attendance if they have available funding.
Kathy Wright, WMA Area 10 Director
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