FORT SILL, Okla., March 21, 2019 -- 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade noncommissioned officers participated in the inaugural Oklahoma City Women's Achievement Panel hosted by the Oklahoma City West Army Recruiting Company March 8. Young women from local high schools attended the event at Herrick Auditorium on the Southern Nazarene University campus.

Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, acting commanding general of Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), served as the panel's keynote speaker. Richardson is the first woman to serve as the FORSCOM commanding general and commands more than 750,000 Soldiers.

"Today women serve our nation admirably across a wide range of military occupational specialties. Stationed overseas and stateside, women lead platoons, companies, battalions, brigades, and also U.S. Army Forces Command," said Richardson. "In recent conflicts, women have flown helicopter missions deep into enemy territory, fired Patriot missiles at Iraqi Scuds, transported critical supplies, and recovered disabled vehicles across hostile battlefields."

Women leaders from various occupations comprised the panel. Panel members included 1st Sgt. Danielle Balson, Army Tulsa Recruiting Company; Col. Lisa Bartel, 31st ADA Brigade commander; Dr. Jeanette Mendez, dean of arts and sciences, Oklahoma State University; Judge Barbara Swinton, Oklahoma Court of Appeals; and Avilla Williams, president of Integris Health Edmond.

Panel members shared their life experiences and challenges they faced while entering into their career path.

The high school students took the opportunity to ask questions of each panel member. The students asked questions ranging from how the panel members dealt with personal conflict to what motivated them first thing in the morning. Having a panel comprised of various occupations allowed the students to ask poignant questions about the career paths they are considering.

Once the question-and-answer session with the panel was complete, all students participated in a breakout session over lunch. Female drill sergeants were at each table and continued to answers the students' questions.

Three air defenders from the 30th ADA Brigade commented on the event and their experiences with the young women.

"The panel members themselves are very high-up in their career fields, and it was an awe-inspiring moment to see females who had accomplished so much in one place," said Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Tina Memmel, 30th ADA Brigade.

"It was an awesome experience, and there was a lot of young women with really great questions about the military," said Sgt. 1st Class Arianna Cook, Air and Missile Defense 14P senior career manager, Office of the Chief Air Defense Artillery.

"It [the panel] was very inspiring, and it was great for these girls to see women who have their careers built and have worked so hard," said Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) Ashley Thomas, 30th ADA Brigade.

Fittingly the OKC West Recruiting Company scheduled the panel to be on International Women's Day and during Women's Heritage Month.

In a closing ceremony, Richardson recognized the various noncommissioned officers who participated in the breakout discussion. After the event, excited young voices rumbled throughout the room as the new drill sergeant mentors posed for numerous selfies and pictures.