Retired Woman Marine Tapped as Advisory Group Head
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2002 Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, the newly appointed chairwoman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, said one position in particular from her military career prepared her for the position.
Before retiring in January 1999 as the only woman ever to achieve three-star rank in the Marine Corps, Mutter was deputy chief of staff for manpower and reserve affairs at the Marine Corps Headquarters. Before that, she commanded the Marine Corps Systems Command at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Mutter had also previously commanded the 3rd Force Service Support Group in Okinawa, Japan -- a 6,000-person unit.
She said being responsible for so many people and their families made her much more aware of issues that affect Marines.
"When you have a leadership (role), the responsibility that you feel for those young men and women and their families focuses you on issues in a way that you don't necessarily focus on them in other jobs," she said in an Oct. 30 Pentagon interview.
Mutter takes the helm of a DACOWITS redesigned by the current administration.
"What we decided to do was discontinue the old approach and to have a considerably smaller board," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon press conference Oct. 22.
The new charter streamlines the organization and provides for more Defense Department input to issues the group looks at. The committee's 13 members will meet two to four times a year, and each member will make two installation visits a year, Mutter said.
During installation visits, committee members speak to the base's leadership and hold focus group discussions with people of varying ages, backgrounds and ranks. The group's members then compile their data and make recommendations to the Defense leadership.
Women's concerns are the only issues DACOWITS addresses. "Many of the issues cross gender. Many of the things DACOWITS has identified over the years, and policy changes that have been made as a result, have benefited men as well as women," she said. Committee members have to talk to the men as well to find out what their perceptions and concerns are regarding the role of women in their organizations, she added.
She noted two of the committee members are men as well.
Mutter said it's important to have an independent advisory group because service members aren't always comfortable discussing issues with senior military members.
She recalled one such fact-finding mission she conducted to a Marine installation when she was in charge of that service's manpower issues.
"I visited a base about a week before DACOWITS showed up. I could tell that there was not a lot of open conversation," she said. "As we tried to get information from folks, we didn't get to the nut of a couple issues that were identified by DACOWITS a week later."
Mutter's appointment has been criticized in some circles because she belongs to a group that advocates greater access for women to ground-combat units. But she said her personal feelings are irrelevant to the committee's goal of providing solid feedback to the secretary of defense.
"It's not the intent of this committee to take any one committee member's beliefs about any issue and make that an agenda," she said.