FORT BENNING, Ga. (March 23, 2018) -- Empowering women was the theme, and empowered women led the discussions during the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation's third annual Women, Peace and Security event March 12 at the institute at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Stephenie Foster led off the event, speaking of her experiences as a business leader in her company, Smash Strategies, and as an official in the U.S. Department of State, who has served in highly conflicted areas of Afghanistan.

She was followed by Canadian Army Lt. Col. Krista Bouckaert, an artillery battalion commander, who talked of the long-standing gender equality in the Canadian Armed Forces and how that has strengthened their services.

Dr. Claudia Veras, a WHINSEC instructor in the Staff and Faculty Development Division, described her experiences and lessons learned from her careers, first in the Dominican Republic's navy and then their Army.

Following these presentations was a question-and-answer period with the students in the Command and General Staff Officer and the Joint Operations Courses.

U.S. Southern Command's civilian deputy commander and policy adviser, Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, discussed the roles of women in the services of the nations in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility. She also took questions from the audience.

The Women, Peace and Security Panel Discussion is the central effort by the institute to fulfill its obligations under the National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security. The NAP-WPS is a worldwide initiative to involve women equally with men when dealing with international relations and particularly in conflict resolution.

In addition to WHINSEC personnel, a group from LaGrange College attended in person, and many more participated on the Facebook Live feed.