FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 31, 2013) -- The Army is a fruit salad of individuals who come together from different backgrounds and experiences which collide to make a delicious and successful combination, and to ensure that the salad blends together correctly the Fort Rucker garrison command team has put together a new program to hear from an important ingredient -- its female Soldiers.

Better Empowered Soldiers Today will hold a kickoff event Nov. 7 from 4-5:30 p.m. at The Commons, Bldg. 8950, to start the garrison lead initiative off on the right foot.

"The goal is 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."

Gonzalez believes 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, and Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander, believes that is one of the best results that will come out of the group.

"This is not a social group, it is simply an opportunity to gather and talk about issues of the day," he said. "I think those who will benefit the most at the beginning are going to be the younger folks hearing the experiences and the valuable lessons from the people who have come before them, and learning how to cope with certain things while having a full career.

"We hope this will enable women to be able to have a forum to talk about things that are unique to them," he added.

There is a limited number of female Soldiers on the installation and they are often spread out in the workforce or work area, so by getting them together Gonzalez said that female Soldiers will be able to meet new people and make professional and personal connections.

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

"It is not a male bashing or even a female empowerment program; it is something that we hope will empower that person," said Gonzalez, adding that she hopes attendees will feel more in control of their lives and career by developing a strong network of friends and co-workers.

The garrison saw the need for a group like this to be developed after surveys where completed and experiences were shared about the unique things female Soldiers face during the everyday work day.

"It is important for us to understand the stresses and issues that females face so everyone can better understand," said Gonzalez.

"I hope that men will 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.

Gonzalez and McRae also both agreed that it is counterproductive to have an isolated female Soldier moving from installation to installation who is possibly in a unit with only male Soldiers and no one to talk to on specific topics.

"This will be good for Soldiers to intermingle with others they might never encounter to network, and for older Soldiers to share stories and advice that the new Soldiers really need to hear," said McRae.

The garrison command team plans for a committee to be formed out of the participating women who will decide what the long and short range goals will be, and the direction and form that the program will take.

The guest speaker at the kickoff event is Gail Dwyer, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and author of 'Tough as Nails: One Woman's Journey Through West Point.'

"She was in the second graduating class that had females from West Point," said Gonzalez. "Her experiences will hopefully energize and motivate those Soldiers about looking for someone to lean on or ask for help."

A personality assessment will also be a part of the event for attendees and light refreshments will be served.

"If we see there is a need and a desire for other groups to form up like this then that need will be developed further," said the garrison commander. "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."

Soldiers are asked to RSVP.

For more information, or to RSVP, contact Ruth Gonzalez at 255-3735.