PHITSANULOK, Kingdom of Thailand -- Women representing several countries participated in the first-of-its-kind International Sisters in Arms meeting Feb. 17 at Camp Akatosarot, Phitsanulok, Kingdom of Thailand during Cobra Gold 2014.
The goal of Sisters in Arms is to empower women by developing strong bonds and partnerships. Members of the Royal Thai Army, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), Malaysian Army, Australian Air Force and U.S. Armed Forces participated in the event.
“You are a part of this first international program, where we take the concept of the banyan tree and branch even further,” said U.S. Army Col. Sheila Bryant, commander, 10th Regional Support Command, Okinawa.
Bryant was referring to the banyan tree logo, created by the U.S. Army Pacific Sisters in Arms committee, whose motto is “Rooted as one, branching to all.”
U.S. Army Pacific Sisters is open to all and is designed to educate, mentor and empower women.
“Women have served in the U.S. military for more than 100 years, and mentorship has been around even longer,” Bryant said. “Mentorship is tough, and it is tough because you want to be the best at your job yet have a great family life at the same time,’ added the senior female officer and mediator for the event.
“But how do you accomplish it all?” Bryant asked. “And how do we meet these challenges and help each other through these challenges?”
Discussions ranged from various mentorship programs to juggling career and family life.
U.S. Army Sgt. Precious Green, Special Troops Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command human resource specialist, discussed some of the challenges she overcomes as a single parent and active duty soldier. Green said despite her busy schedule, she finds time to participate in mentorship programs.
Having an understanding family helps contribute to the success of female members of the JGSDF, according to Sgt. Mai Iwata, a noncommissioned officer from Japan.
Lt. Col. Salawati Yahaa, an officer from the Malaysian Joint Force Headquarters, shared her experiences with prioritizing and balancing from the perspective of being both a mother of four while continuing to serve her country.
Lt. Sally Maynard with the Headquarters Joint Operations Command, Australian Air Force, talked about her military mentorship program.
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is a captain in the Hawaii National Guard and a recent Sisters in Arms guest speaker, sent a letter which was read at the meeting. In it she expressed her desire to join her fellow Soldiers at Cobra Gold which stated, "Sisters In Arms is a great opportunity to highlight the challenges and opportunities that exist for women serving in uniform, and the men who serve alongside."
“To be able to bring all of the international community together, not just across our Army but across the globe, into one forum to discuss issues and welcome each other was a great idea, and it should continue,” said U.S. Army Maj. Altwan Whitfield, 25th Infantry Division logistics officer.
“To (speak with) individuals not just from Hawaii, but all over the U.S. Pacific Command, and a commander that is from a different region of PACOM, was one of the best experiences I’ve had since I’ve been in the military,” Whitfield said.
Cobra Gold 14, in its 33rd iteration, is a multinational exercise designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.
“This is such a good program, I hope it branches out to other services and other countries,” said Green.