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NATO Military Women to Meet

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 11, 1998 – Military women from 19 nations will meet here at NATO headquarters in June to share information and discuss common issues.

The Committee on Women in NATO Armed Forces annual conference is slated June 2 to 5, 1998. About 100 representatives from NATO's 16 allied nations, plus invited guests from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, are expected to attend.

The women's committee was formed by senior military women in 1961, but was not formally recognized by NATO until 1976. Today, it serves as an advisory body on critical issues affecting women in NATO armed forces, said Air Force Maj. Sarah Garcia.

Garcia, of San Angelo, Texas, heads NATO's new Office on Women in NATO Forces. She joined NATO's international military staff in January along with Air Force Master Sgt. Michele Tyler of Pea Ridge, Ark., who serves as information management director.

The committee was the driving force behind establishing the new office, which has a three-year charter to prove itself an effective link between the women's organization and NATO leaders. During the conference, Garcia plans to do a presentation on the new office. "I want to make sure everyone understands our purpose, duties and responsibilities," she said.

Garcia said committee members head national delegations to the annual conference that also include a national delegate and up to five observers. Delegates are generally female flag officers, a nation's highest ranking woman, or a defense ministry official specializing in policy and personnel.

Observers are usually representatives of the nation's services and medical corps, Garcia said. Some nations have separate medical corps not integrated into the army, navy or air force, she noted.

Rear Adm. Jacqueline O. Allison, director of operations for the Defense Special Weapons Agency in Alexandria, Va., will head the U.S. delegation. She will be accompanied by Army, Navy and Air Force representatives, and a special representative from the medical corps to participate in panel discussions on specific medical issues, Garcia said.

During the four-day meeting, each nation will report the status of its female forces and any major policy changes affecting them. "It will include the number and ranks of women by service, career fields open to women, and any new initiatives related to goals or objectives previously set by the committee," Garcia said.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, the alliance's three member invitees, will give presentations on women in their militaries. France is slated to give a special presentation on Partnership for Peace initiatives, and Sweden will brief on its mentoring program for women. Belgium has scheduled a briefing by its minister of equality.

Single-service panel discussions will be held by army, navy, air force and medical corps representatives. Three subcommittees -- utilization and development, equity and leadership, and quality of life -- will also meet during the conference, Garcia said.

"The army panel, for example, will discuss the women's employment law in the European Union," she said. "The navy panel will talk about career progression for women and joint navy couples. The air force panel will talk about maternity issues for air crew members. The medical panel will discuss radiation exposure and other issues."

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