By Staff Sgt. Mark MirandaJanuary 24, 2014
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The 7th Infantry Division hosted a seminar to educate, train, mentor and empower female soldiers to be successful leaders while addressing unique challenges, Jan. 7.
The event, "Sisters in Arms," was an opportunity for female soldiers to freely discuss topics, share experiences, and address issues. Sessions ranged in topics from mentorship and leadership to dual military families and women's wellness.
The event provided a venue intended to promote a climate of trust and mutual respect. This first Sisters in Arms event will grow to incorporate similar events held at both division and brigade levels.
During panel discussions, Lt. Col. Celia FlorCruz, 7th Infantry Division Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program manager, and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Lourdes Alvarado-Ramos, director of Washington State Veterans Affairs, along with other guest speakers talked about early challenges in their careers.
"Seemingly perennial issues like sexual harassment and assault tend to be less prevalent with women's help," Alvarado-Ramos said. "Women soldiers are not in competition, but in collaboration, with men."
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Angela Hendricks, 702nd Brigade Support Battalion, spoke on the theme of "overcoming resistance."
"It's a never-ending battle," Hendricks said. "There have been a high number of sexual assaults, harassment, unjust practices, lack of support for schooling, promotions. We're here to make sure that you're educated in knowing that we all have to stick together to be able to do it."
Hendricks also spoke to the importance of education to remain competitive with peers.
"If you want the pride that comes with your rank, wear it responsibly," said Hendricks, discussing standards of grooming and uniform wear in Army regulations. "We don't earn respect by [applying] lip gloss or making sure our eyeliner is straight. We get it be doing our job well."
Other 7th Infantry Division leaders leading discussions included human resources Sgt. Maj. Jill Mathews on career advancement and 7th ID psychiatrist Maj. Evelyn Vento with a presentation titled "Opposites Attract: Women are not the same as Men."
The audience took every opportunity to comment and ask questions of the leaders invited to speak.
"I like that we can bring female soldiers together to speak to their senior counterparts to find out how to be successful in today's military," said Staff Sgt. Ullanda Thompson, a human resources specialist from Paterson, N.J., currently assigned to 110th Chemical Battalion.
Thompson shared what she felt were the most pressing issues facing female soldiers today.
"What I feel is that female soldiers don't see themselves as contenders in their organizations, even now in 2014. We're still in the thought process that in order for me to have been successful I've had to do things that are ... questionable," said Thompson, who has served 14 years in the Army.
She spoke of a double standard in perception that needs to change: "If I'm a tough noncommissioned officer, then I'm a 'B-word;' whereas if my male NCO is tough, he's trying to make sure his soldiers are squared away."
Thompson had hopes that junior soldiers took a lot away from the discussions.
"I hope they get out of their own way," Thompson said. "I've never heard an NCO say that a soldier is not being sent to a promotion board or getting favorable action because she's female; but because she can't meet standards. Throw excuses out the window and just be a hard charger. Worry only about what you need to do to be successful."