Brigade Forum Addresses Women’s Issues
By Army Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq, Jan. 15, 2010 Female soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team attended a woman’s town hall meeting here Jan. 8 to address issues affecting them.
Army Sgt. Letisha Williams informs female soldiers of dimly lit areas of Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, during a women’s town hall meeting, Jan. 8, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The meeting supported the unit’s female soldier deployment readiness luncheon held before the brigade deployed in October.
During the event here, the soldiers were introduced to leaders of health and welfare services such as behavioral health and stress management and heard about the unit victim advocate program.
“One of the purposes of this meeting today is to inform you of what agencies to go to when you have a problem and where to find those agencies,” explained Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Pearson, the brigade’s command sergeant major.
Pearson opened the floor for questions after speaking to the soldiers on the brigade’s sexual harassment and assault policy. “I want you hear these words come straight from my mouth,” he said. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault will not be tolerated in this brigade. Action will be taken.”
For many of the soldiers, the meeting was a chance to associate faces with names, not only of the leaders but also of their female battle buddies. “No one understands female soldiers like other female soldiers,” said Army Capt. Joan Hollein, commander of the brigade’s Headquarters Troop.
Army Spc. Michelle Cook, Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, explained what it means to be a woman in the military.
“Sometimes we have to go out of our way to get respected,” she said. “We have to prove ourselves, where sometimes male soldiers are just expected to do well.”
Although many deemed the meeting a success, concerns surfaced among some audience members. “I feel there were some concerns that people weren’t saying,” said Army Spc. Brentney Williams of Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “I think some people just weren’t comfortable. I think there needs to be a way to get people to talk more. It’s important.”
Brigade officials said they’ll continue holding women’s town hall meetings during the unit’s deployment.
(Army Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick serves in the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)