SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – On a brisk Wednesday morning on March 22, 2023, a group of Bronco Soldiers gathered at White Plains Beach, Hawaii, for sunrise yoga.
The physical training session may not be reflective of an average Soldier’s morning, but the message and intent behind the meeting could not have been more representative of the U.S. Army.
The Bronco Women’s Mentorship Group was reestablished at the beginning of 2023 to provide an open forum for Soldiers to mentor, learn, and grow through shared experiences, networking and camaraderie.
The engagement shown in the early stages of the group’s formation can be correlated to the quickly established esprit de corps and the willingness of participation from both officers and enlisted Soldiers throughout the brigade.
“I think this group is important, specifically for a lot of new Soldiers like me, because we don’t know what we don’t know,” said Spc. Sylvia Middleton, an intelligence analyst assigned to 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “Having more experienced women in the military who are willing to take some time to talk to us makes a really big difference on if we are going to stay in or get out.”
The Bronco Women’s Mentorship Group’s mission aligns with the U.S. Army’s recently launched Women’s Initiative Team, which was created to analyze policies and military norms in an effort to improve quality of life across the branch, boost retention, and further readiness and advancement in the Army.
But regardless of the level at which these conversations are happening, the impact is obvious.
“I think it’s a really special thing when you’re in a room of your sisters-in-arms and you are able to talk to someone who is going through or has gone through similar experiences and who understands that dynamic,” said Capt. Molly Libowski, civil affairs officer and Bronco Women’s Mentorship Group lead assigned to 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Libowski, who has been involved with mentorship groups multiple times throughout her decade-long career, was inspired to revitalize the Bronco program that existed at the brigade prior to the pandemic.
“My hope is that Soldiers who participate get something out of it and are able to bring back a new understanding or a different mindset to their workplace,” said Libowski. “If we just do that, we can really make a difference.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III emphasized the importance of breaking down barriers for women in the U.S. military and promoting inclusion and well-being in a statement released on International Women’s Day.
“I am personally committed to this vital work,” said Austin. “To ensure that we continue to have the strongest fighting force in the world, we must draw on the full power of all our people.”
Despite the group’s name, the group is designed to be inclusive and open to all genders, which was a point of emphasis and discussed at the first meeting.
“I don’t say this group is open to all because I have to,” said Libowski. “I say it’s open to all because it’s important to know the perspective of those around you. It develops you and it gives you a different outlook of those you work alongside.”
To support the group’s mission, the group invited Eliza Marks, a performance expert and certified mental health consultant from Ready and Resilient Performance Center, to address the group during the March meeting.
The goal behind the session was to build a trusting environment where Soldiers could challenge each other, seek counsel, and encourage one another to stay motivated in all aspects of life, whether that be at work or at home, said Marks.
“By conducting sessions that really open up channels of communication and provide the chance for people to talk about potential growth areas and change, we’re affording people the opportunity to voice ideas, concerns, questions, and mistakes without fear,” said Marks. “A cohesive, highly productive and motivated team can accomplish so much more than an individual on their own and it’s essential for the overall success of the individual, unit, and the Army as a whole.”
The Bronco Women’s Mentorship Group plans to host monthly meet-ups, ranging from physical training sessions, volunteering, and lunch-ins, which will be advertised to Soldiers on posters across the brigade and on social media.
“I hope that this group keeps going and word continues to spread throughout the brigade and the division as a whole,” said Libowski. “Anyone that wants to come is more than welcome, regardless of their unit.”