CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- In observance of Women's History Month, Benelux community leaders participated in a special panel discussion March 27 at SHAPE, Belgium. Aligned with the observance's theme "Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence," military and civilian leaders spoke about how they overcame adversity.

The panel featured familiar faces in the community including Army Sgt. Maj. Delonica K. Boyce, operations sergeant major for U.S. NATO SHAPE, Air Force Master Sgt. Amber Grimes, section chief and lead vocalist for the SHAPE International Band, Navy Chief Petty Officer Candy McCollin, logistics specialist for NATO Special Operations Headquarters, Therese Ayers, Benelux Equal Employment Opportunity manager for U.S. personnel, Patsy Herbaut, Benelux Equal Employment Opportunity manager for host nation personnel, and Brandy Perkins, chief of patient administration division at the SHAPE Healthcare Facility.

During the panel discussion, the women were asked questions about the personal challenges they faced in the military and the advice they would give to the audience. Panel members brought up topics such as honoring diversity, developing mentorships, supporting one another and learning from women leaders in history.

Grimes, previously a supply journeyman, discussed how she wanted to show her strength and ability in a male-dominated field.

"I was driving tractor trailers and forklifts, whatever a man was doing in that career field. I got stares and looks, but I was on the flight line as the guys were," she said. "As time progresses, women are getting more recognition to do the same things that men can do. We are just as strong as men."

Ayers, who served in the Women's Army Corps in the 1970s, further talked about how women like her fought for equality in order to pave the way for future female service members. She credited her mother and aunt as her role models in finding the strength and confidence to be a leader.

"They showed me that women can do so much more than the confines that we are restricted to at times," she said. "Remember women who came first and made changes for you, we did it because we believed in what we were doing."

Tom Joyce, deputy to the garrison commander at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, thanked the panels for sharing their stories. As a representative for the command group, Joyce wanted to remind the audience about the importance of inclusion and diversity in the Benelux community.

Reflecting on Women's History Month and seeing the people in the room, he left the audience with a message of empowerment.

"You are all making history too. Each and every one of you are leaders in your own right," he said.

For more information about Benelux Equal Opportunity and future observance events, call DSN 314-361-5235 or +32(0)68-27-5235.