New program connects female Soldiers
Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander, speaks at the BEST kickoff event Nov. 7 at The Commons about the isolation of female Soldiers and what is being done to connect Soldiers.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 14, 2013) -- Roughly 5,000 Soldiers are stationed at Fort Rucker and around 600 of those Soldiers are females, and with such a small minority playing such a large role for the installation, a new program has been set up for them to connect, network and learn from each other.

Better Empowered Soldiers Today held its kickoff event Nov. 7, and the garrison-led initiative began its mission to develop a diverse network of female Soldiers with similar interests and backgrounds that they can turn to for help and advice when needed, said Ruth Gonzalez, Army Community Service relocation readiness program manager.

"It is a chance for mentorship, professional development and for Soldiers to share their experiences on how to deal with certain aspects of military life," she said.

The program, which seeks to strengthen all Soldiers through mentorship and social opportunities, is open to all military personnel, though the group focuses on female-Soldier-specific topics.

"I hope that men will continue to attend so they can see through the eyes of a female Soldier, realizing that they don't have to deal with and will never have to deal with some of the obstacles females face. More understanding and cohesiveness will flow through the unit and better that relationship between male and female Soldiers," she continued.

Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander, attended the kickoff and said that being able to speak with someone who has been there and done that and has more insight can be very beneficial to younger Soldiers.

"Women comprise 13.6 percent of the military's active force," he said. "Think how beneficial that would be for the Army if that entire percentage reached its full potential."

McRae told the story of his own daughter's isolation at her first assignment and how it led to her eventually leaving the military.

"She was spending her lunch break in her car knitting because she felt like she was completely isolated," he said. "The pressure she was feeling, and not having an outlet to relate to other females, got to the point where she had a breakdown."

BEST intends to begin a mentorship program between older and younger female Soldiers, and Gail Dwyer, guest speaker at the kickoff, and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and author of "Tough as Nails: One Woman's Journey Through West Point," said that mentoring can add meaning to Soldier's lives.

"I did not have a mentor at West Point. We were all concerned with our own survival," she began. "But fortunately, female Soldiers now have great opportunities to pick up a mentor and learn from each other."

Dwyer was in the second graduating class from West Point that had females in 1981, and she retired from the Army Reserve in 2004 as a lieutenant colonel. She shared wisdom with attendees, who were laughing and nodding to much of what she said.

"The three components of flourishing and wellbeing are relationships, meaning and accomplishment," she said. "It is a good thing for women to realize they can go far in the Army, and any program that enhances relationships among Soldiers and helps Soldiers share perspectives, making them stronger overall, will make the team ultimately stronger as well."

Master Sgt. Brooke Houppert, B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, said that she enjoyed the kickoff and that she wishes she had someone to mentor her when she was coming up in the Army.

"I think this can really help younger women. I think both men and women should have mentor groups because young men need help just as much as women," she said.

McRae said that if it is known that there is a need and a desire for other groups to form, then that need will be developed further.

"This is not about singling out one group based on one demographic. We all have a singular experience, and as we draw from other experiences we are able to adjust our worldview," said the garrison commander.

For more information, or to learn how to get involved, call 255-3735.

Page last updated Thu November 14th, 2013 at 00:00