Fort Lee Women's History Month event focuses on mentorship
March 21, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (March 21, 2013) -- Several women provided testimonials and recounted experiences that helped to shape their lives for the better during the 2013 Women's History Celebration, March 14, at the 832nd Ordnance Battalion headquarters on the Ordnance Campus.
"Be a mentor, make history!" was the theme for the event that was hosted by Bravo Company, 832nd Ord. Bn., 59th Ord. Brigade.
Six local women shared their stories and thoughts about mentorship and other issues related to career and personal advancements during a speaker-panel format.
Roughly 50 Soldiers and civilians were on hand for the presentation to include Col. Thomas Rivard and Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Morris, the 59th Ord. Bde.'s commander and command sergeant major. Second Lt. Adriane B. Armour, Bravo Co. executive officer and event coordinator, said she wanted her guests to simply share their experiences as they related to the theme, touching upon any relevant topic as necessary.
"I wanted to acknowledge the hardships and successes of the past and present by focusing on how we can continue overcoming obstacles," she said afterward. "Mentorship is solution oriented. Whether the topic is SHARP, women in combat or maintaining a healthy life/work balance, let's work together on a personal level to address the good and the bad."
Many of the women described what mentorship meant to them and how mentors influenced their persona and actions. Command Sgt. Maj. Shontina Edwards said she grew up as the youngest of 10 children and was heavily influenced by an older sister, who she said organized neighborhood girls and created camaraderie through recreational activity.
"We had double-dutch contests back then, and she entered us in various contests at different parks," she recalled, "but she was teaching us about empowering one another and supporting one another."
Marine Master Sgt. Tammy Belleville, director of the Marine Airborne and Air Delivery School and a rigger by military occupational specialty, said she joined the military at age 32, becoming part of a career field that has few women. Recalling how she wasn't afraid to work outside the box and learn from the males, she encouraged audience members to take a gender-neutral approach and seek out advice and guidance when and wherever it is available.
"We all have something to gain from everyone about our life histories and experiences," she said.
Francoise Bonnell's ideas about gender neutrality were on par with Belleville's. The Army Women's Museum director said it's key to seek out good candidates for mentorship.
"Sometimes you have to ask somebody to mentor you -- 'Would you be my mentor? Would you advise me?' That's a hard thing to do because you have to admit that you don't know everything and you're not perfect."
Most of the panelists agreed that women, short of full mentorship, should support their organizations and institutions as much as they can. Aimee Eisensmith, a Bravo Company Family Readiness Group leader, recounted her struggles as a young spouse caught out on a limb during her husband's first deployments.
"Nobody trained me to be a spouse," she said. "Our job is to pass on that information. I may not have every answer or every bit of knowledge that I need, but I'm going to pass on what I know because I don't want them to be in the dark the way I was in the dark. That's what role modeling means to me; that's what mentorship means to me. It's passing on my experience and what I know to future generations."
"Everyone has something to give," added Edwards. "Whether you know it or not, someone is watching you. You are the example, so be the example."
The event also included a question and answer session and a dance performance by Braxton Reeves, daughter of Patricia Reeves, guest speaker and school counselor.