MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Service members and station residents gathered inside the Club Iwakuni ballroom aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to celebrate women of character, courage and commitment during the 2014 Women’s Leadership Symposium March 21.
The symposium was held in honor of Women’s History Month; a month dedicated to celebrating the extraordinary determination and tenacity of women, according to the National Women’s History Project.
“Those women who came before us had to be women of great character and strength in order to pave the way for us,” said Master Sgt. Michell S. Carr, guest speaker at the symposium. “As women, we have come far, but we still have a ways to go.”
The symposium concentrated on the struggles and accomplishments of women in the military and how to honor the sacrifices of their predecessors.
“We all play a part in the story of women in the military,” said Carr. “We must all come together to make our story one of honor, dedication and excellent character.”
Even though females are a minority in the military, women have a lot to gain by standing together. It is not uncommon to find other female service members being just another obstacle, explained Lance Cpl. Kristen K. Kahalewai, an attendee of the symposium.
Kahalewai said during her short time in the Marine Corps, she has witnessed innumerous counts of woman-on-woman crimes, from bullying to vicious gossip.
“Personally, I find motivation in knowing that other females in my unit are going through everything I am,” said Kahalewai. “I can look to them for courage to persevere and, in return, they could look to me for the same. That’s the mindset I wish every female would adopt.”
During her speech, Carr strongly advised attendees to take fellow female service members under their wing, rather than compete against them.
“As a sergeant on the drill field, it was very cut throat,” said Carr. “Everyone wanted to be the best, including me, but instead of tearing someone down to make myself standout, I formed a life-long bond with some ladies who inspired me and still inspire me to be better.”
During the symposium, women received a rare opportunity to talk to and learn from female leaders aboard station.
“When it comes to role models, the symposium gave us a great variety to choose from,” said Kahalewai. “You saw these really empowered and accomplished women who sat down with us and told us how to get where they are.”
The symposium offered the younger generation an abundance of guidance and knowledge about the struggles women overcame and how female service members are essential in the U.S. military.
“Those women made me realize that we aren’t just a product of affirmative action,” said Kahalewai. “We’re pivotal, we matter and it’s nice to be known as a necessity, instead of something that makes the military politically correct.”