FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The 199th Infantry Brigade and the Maneuver Center of Excellence hosted a panel discussion on the changing role of women in the military March 15 in Marshall Auditorium at the MCoE Headquarters building.

The panelists included Command Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Booker, the Martin Army Hospital command sergeant major; Capt. Melissa Vargas, a U.S. Army Ranger School graduate; Sgt. 1st Class Christine Reel, a U.S. Army Infantry School drill sergeant; and 1st Lt. Adria Penatzer, Ranger Assessment and Selection Program graduate.

Col. Anthony Judge, commander of the 199th Infantry Brigade spoke about the history of women and the U.S. Army from the Revolutionary War, through the conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries, and to today.

As Soldiers and civilians in the audience asked questions, the panelists talked about their Army careers and experiences.

Among the audience members was Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, who asked the panel what advice they would give young women, either in high school or college, who are thinking of joining.

"The opportunities are greater here than they are in the civilian world," said Booker. "There are struggles, but if you don't know where you want to go in life, you don't know where you want to go to college, or you don't know what to do, the Army's a great platform for you to enter and learn and find yourself. And a lot of young females are doing that nowadays.

"It's outstanding right now the opportunities that we have," continued Booker. "We need strong women in the military, we need strong females to continue leading the way and increasing our capabilities."

"If a high schooler doesn't know what she wants to do, but she wants a challenge and definitely thinks that she can contribute and be a good teammate, first and foremost, then I definitely think she should try it," said Vargas.

"Be mentally and physically prepared for the training you are about to endure," said Reel. "And I think that mental toughness is far more important than anything physical."

"Find a mentor," said Penatzer. "If you're a female who wants to join the military, then you're probably a hard charger who has a lot of energy. You need someone to direct that energy. Especially now, today, when there are so many opportunities available."