GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – On a frosty February morning a female Soldier struggles to navigate an obstacle course across a snow covered field behind the 41st Field Artillery Brigade Headquarters on Tower Barracks. Her vision is completely obstructed by a blindfold. She cautiously takes large steps over ribbons that are just high enough to catch her ankle if she does not step carefully. However, she is not without support. There are two other female Soldiers helping her. One holds the blindfolded Soldier’s hand to help maintain her balance as the other reads off directions until she makes it through safely. This was one of the team building exercises during a Sisters in Arms session held on Feb. 11, 2021.
Sisters in Arms is an unofficial, grassroots movement that allows female Soldiers to get together in a safe environment to network, discuss important topics and how to improve the workplace. This is a vastly different approach to help connect Soldiers than the typical mandatory training.
“It’s easy to think you are the only female,” said Maj. Bridgette Navejar, the 41st FAB S-1 and Sisters in Arms founder. “Sisters in Arms builds a community through non-mandatory quarterly meetings that allows ladies to get together and learn there are people they can talk to.”
Following the physical training session, the ladies gathered back together for a luncheon and the formal portion. The meeting’s theme was trust: how trust is built, how it can be broken over time, and how to repair that trust. The meeting ended with a long hard look at the events in the Fort Hood Report, and an open discussion with the guest speaker Maj. Philip Gerretsen, the 41st FAB Judge Advocate.
“It is important to learn from the Fort Hood Report,” said Gerretsen. “It revealed a lot of things around the Army that needs to be improved upon. It’s a good reminder for leaders at all levels, that they need to stay in touch and be aware of what’s going on with their Soldiers.”
“Sisters in Arms opened my eyes to a lot of Army systems,” said Sgt. Ariel Riddle, the 41st FAB human resources noncommission officer. “There was a lot I didn’t know about the military justice system. It is important to have these conversations with other females. I definitely think more females should attend.”
Since starting Sisters in Arms back in Sept. 2019, Navejar has noticed a change in the climate. She said Soldiers are becoming more open to discussing issues, and other units in United States Army Garrison Bavaria are asking her for advice on creating their own community.
“I know in the last sensing session there was a lot of positive feedback,” said Navejar. “Soldiers are asking for more meetings. Junior enlisted come to visit more to talk about specific issues. If it is something you genuinely want to build, I encourage it.”
Sisters in Arms will continue having their quarterly meetings. The next meeting is scheduled on May 7, 2021 with discussions focused on health.