News: Female soldiers encourage women to seek leadership roles
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Theanne Tangen
RAPID CITY, S.D. – Five women serving in the South Dakota National Guard spoke during Rapid City’s first National Women’s History Month event at the University Center on Monday, March 17.
The event featured three keynote speakers and 14 additional presenters for breakout sessions designed to celebrate and honor women in leadership positions who have demonstrated character, courage and commitment as military personnel, health care professionals, educators, business and community leaders.
“Every one of the women who speak today have all trail blazed a path for women regardless of where they are at in their career,” said Helen Nessan-Merriman, South Dakota Center for Enterprise Opportunity director. “Our goal from this event is to inspire women to seek leadership positions and encourage everyone to respect the diversity and depth of women’s experiences.”
This year’s theme, Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment, honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women, said Nessan-Merriman.
Keynote speaker SDARNG State Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 Darla Crown echoed the theme of the event.
“We are all women of character, courage and commitment,” said Crown. “To me, a woman of character is someone who is not necessarily famous but people who work every day to take care of their family or an elderly parent, it is people who are making a difference in their community by volunteering or simply being available to help their neighbor in need.”
Crown recognized the limited opportunities women have endured throughout history to today’s endless possibilities.
“Nowadays, it’s not about what you’re allowed to do, it’s about what you want to do,” said Crown. “Whether wearing high heels or combat boots, in the right pair of shoes a woman can do anything.”
In addition to Crown’s keynote address, other contributors to the event were: Maj. Kathy Dirk and 1st Sgt. Lorissa Wetzler who discussed “Empowerment of Women around the World” which included the State Partnership Program between the SDNG and Suriname, along with Wetzler’s experience as the senior enlisted Soldier who deployed to Afghanistan with the 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment; 1st Lt. Karla M. MacArthur Harris presented “Women in the Law” and shared her experience as the only female judge advocate in the SDARNG; Master Sgt. Kristi Palmer used group activities to illustrate the effectiveness of resiliency with her topic “The Power of Resiliency” as the SDNG suicide prevention coordinator.