This is how the military is integrating women

Gender integration is vital for the success of women in the military, the commander of US Southern Command said July 13 at the closing ceremony of the second Women in Military and Security Conference held in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd made opening and closing remarks at WIMCON 17, a two-day conference on gender perspectives in force development and military operations co-hosted this year by the Southcom commander and the Guatemalan armed forces.

Photo courtesy of Southcom

Photo courtesy of Southcom

In attendance were US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd D. Robinson, Guatemala Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Juan Perez, and regional leaders.

The first WIMCOM was held last year in Trinidad and Tobago.

Over the past two days, Tidd said, “we’ve shared insights and observations and learned from one another’s experiences. We’ve celebrated our progress and identified the obstacles that still remain in our paths. And we’ve reinforced … a commitment to equality, a commitment to equity, a commitment to opportunity.”

The admiral said the Western Hemisphere offers a potential model for regional cooperation on gender integration and advancing gender perspectives.

U.S. Marines PFC. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro (Center Left) and PFC. Julia R. Carroll (Center Right) of Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East (SOI-E), stand at parade rest during their graduation ceremony from SOI-E aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Nov. 21, 2013. (U. S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager, Combat Camera, SOI-E/Released)

“This week we’ve seen how much we have to share with one another, and I know this is only the beginning of setting the standard for the rest of the world,” Tidd added.

Community of Interest

The Southcom commander proposed two ideas for the group going forward, the first being to commit to establishing a formal community of interest to further the topic.

“Southcom will happily take on the task to find the best tool for continuing this vitally important conversation,” he said, “and we will use the contact information you provide today to share this forum once we create it.”

Logo for the Women in Military and Security Conference held July 10-13 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Gender advisors — subject matter experts attending the conference — are ideal members, Tidd added, but other personnel also will add value and over the next year the community can work on issues identified at WIMCOM 2017 as focus areas for improvement.

Second, the admiral said, is a need to collect better data to document progress.

“We have a term in English called baselining — determining a minimum starting point to use for comparisons,” he explained. “There’s clearly a lot more work to be done on [the kinds of] data we need to gather and share, but we’ve all heard this week about the importance of using data to further this message.”

Regional Observatory

Southcom, he said, offered to serve as a regional observatory to help keep track of integration progress by country, regional advances and obstacles to advancement.

Female soldiers negotiate obstacles during the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s cultural support program which prepares all-female Soldier teams to serve as enablers supporting Army special operations combat forces in and around secured objective areas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

Tidd added, “If you will get us the data and research, we’ll help collate it and make it available for our collective use.”

Other highlights from the meeting included the idea that equality for women in the military requires male acceptance and collaboration; that qualification and advancement for everyone should be based on capability, competency and character; and that fair standards should be set and all should be required to meet them.

The admiral also asked for ideas or recommendations for the focus of WIMCOM 2018.

“I sincerely hope that you’ll seek to replicate the face-to-face, candid conversations we sought to foster in this conference,” the admiral said. “Hopefully this is just the beginning, not the end, of those types of conversations.”

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