FORT LEE, Va. (June 1, 2017) -- About 50 female Soldiers from the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade attended the first Advanced Individual Training Women's Leadership Symposium May 20 at the Army Women's Museum.

The event was hosted by Col. Tamatha Patterson, 23rd QM Brigade commander, and coordinated by Capt. Tanya R. Lockett, Tango Company commander, 266th QM Battalion, and Capt. Genarda Bates, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 23rd QM Bde. It included 1st Sgt. Angela Davis, Papa Company, 244th QM Bn., as the guest speaker, a panel discussion and a question and answer period with the panel.

"This symposium was an opportunity to share life experiences and techniques on how to maintain balance between professional and personal goals," said Lockett. "It was helpful because it allowed female Soldiers to ask questions that pertain to their lives and obtain life experiences from a panel of experienced military women. The panel dressed in civilian clothes that allowed the Soldiers to feel comfortable asking senior leaders questions without any ramifications.

"After the event was done, Soldiers continued to ask some of the panel members more questions, which indicated they were really interested and took something away," she continued.

Bates agreed with the sentiment the Soldiers who attended received solid guidance.

"It is always a great idea to get female leaders together in a positive environment," she said "It is imperative we encourage each other and build the foundation of understanding that we are resources of support for each other.

"It also is important we learn from those who have come before us and build a better environment for those who are coming after," Bates continued. "Our young Soldiers have to understand their importance in the grand scheme of things, and they need to know how to take care of themselves and their families."

Attendee Pvt. Ana Murillo recently graduated from the culinary specialist program at the Joint Culinary Training Center. She approached Patterson after a recent women's leadership symposium in March at the Women's Museum and said she told the colonel her fellow female AIT Soldiers could benefit from attending a similar session. Several company-level events had been held at this point, and a decision for a brigade-wide event was set in motion.

"I always get something out of these symposiums," said Murillo. "This second event was better because it was my peers and me. The first event had more NCOs and high-ranking individuals in attendance.

"We spoke about a lot of things -- diet, fitness and how to progress in life as a woman in the Army," she continued. "There was a lot of talk on how to balance our home and Army life. Most of us have a lot of stress because we're in a training environment and we have families back home and children asking us when we are coming back. We have to stay focused on learning, so that balance can be hard to achieve."

Murillo said she learned a lot from the symposium and really enjoyed hearing the personal story of Davis, the guest speaker.

"Seeing the person in front of you -- especially a woman -- standing with such success and learning about how she got there is great," she said. "It was just wonderful. Right now, I'm questioning what the future holds, and I want to know what I can do to be as great as she is. Hearing her story motivated me. It let me know that if I push through the tough times, I can get there."

These symposiums have made Murillo want to search them out at her future duty stations and seek out mentors of her own.

"I definitely want to find strong female and male mentors," said Murillo. "Having both gives you a great balance because they will have different perspectives."

The importance of a strong mentor can't be understated, said Bates.

"I have had many mentors with many backgrounds," she said. "But there is nothing like having a mentor who you can relate to on a personal level. You have a commonality and understanding that allows a perspective to come into play that does not have to be spoken.

"The perspective of building a career and balancing a family is usually very different from our male counterparts," Bates continued. "The perspective of challenges with your physical fitness after returning from maternity leave or simply changing the mindset that being muscular is not feminine. My mentors have encouraged me to be strong, to take my seat at the table without hesitation; to put my voice in the decision making process, that I am a mentor and how important it is for our future leaders."

Female mentors also can help guide others through a male-dominated service, said Lockett.

"I have had several female mentors in my career, and they continue to mentor me to this day," she said. "They have provided information on how to maintain my professionalism during times when I am angry or upset. Some of my female mentors provide guidance on how to navigate through the ranks as a woman in a somewhat male- dominated Army. Additionally, I have gained guidance on how to balance family life and my career."