By Cpl. Michael SmithJanuary 25, 2017
They may have only had the Army uniform in common when they walked through the door, but regardless of the paths they took to get there, a group of Soldiers on deployment to Afghanistan enjoyed an evening of fun, food and stories, and hopefully left with some new friends and a lot more in common than they thought.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jill L. Crosby, command sergeant major, 1st Cavalry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade (1CD RSSB), hosted the Sisters in Arms Forum at the Jirga Center on Bagram Airfield, Jan. 24.
More than 40 Soldiers, male and female, attended the forum that was developed for female Soldiers to help enhance avenues of mentorship and empowerment in order to reach their full potential.
It was the first forum held by the sergeant major inviting female Soldiers across Bagram Airfield to come and participate in order to build bonds, instill cohesion, and build bridges between senior and junior enlisted females.
As women break down barriers and navigate through their careers in the U.S. Army it is inevitable they will need to reach out for guidance from an experienced and knowledgeable leader at some point.
"Senior leaders have a wealth of knowledge to share. Soldiers need to understand that we wore the same rank and encountered some of the same issues they face today," said Crosby. "So who better to reach out and help them understand that nothing you seek to enhance your future is impossible."
The forum opened with a panel of senior enlisted personnel introducing themselves to the audience and sharing short stories of their careers and obstacles they faced while maneuvering through the ranks as a female Soldier.
"We thought maybe we could start with a small forum to see what questions younger Soldiers have, and help them get through any issues or challenges they may be facing," said Sergeant 1st Class Tronda Powers, property book officer, 1CD RSSB.
She said it wasn't only to discuss issues, but also to let Soldiers know that no matter what the circumstances are, there is someone out there who has worn the same boots.
"Overcoming obstacles makes you stronger, but sometimes it's good to have someone to talk to and help you through certain situations," said Crosby.
Stories that were shared covered a wide variety of topics, from having family members with disabilities to surviving cancer. The common theme was Soldiers opening up to help other Soldiers.
"If you feel defeated, go and talk to somebody because they may have been through something similar and may know how to help you get past it," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Melissa Brooks, US Forces-Afghanistan Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "Sometimes a setback is just a setup to bless you in different ways."
For some Soldiers it was their first time attending a Sisters In Arms Forum.
"Seeing those [Senior Leaders] in this setting made me realize that they are no different than I am," said Staff Sgt. Shannon Williams, battle captain, 1CD RSSB. "They have faced challenges and overcome many obstacles, no different than what many of us face today, not just as a Soldier, but as a female Soldier."
Williams said the Sisters In Arms Forum should be conducted more often across the Army. She said it will give female Soldiers insight and perspective on dealing with everyday stressors of military Soldiers that will help them become a well-rounded individuals.
The evening continued with activities that involved fun ways for all the attendees to get to know one another.
"You really don't get to know people at the office just walking down the hall," said Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Basham, ammunition noncommissioned officer in charge, 1CD RSSB. "When you do things like this, you get to meet real people and get to see what you have in common."
Crosby plans to make the Sisters in Arms Forum a monthly event throughout the deployment, as a way for Soldiers get better acquainted and help one another in the Army and life in general.