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Cohen Appoints New DACOWITS Chair

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 1997 – Elizabeth Bilby of Arizona will become chair of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services on Jan. 1.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen appointed Bilby to the nonsalaried, one-year assignment. She will succeed Judith Youngman.

Bilby's interest in the military began when her son went to the Naval Academy. The Tucsonian became involved in a base support group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and eventually chaired it. Bilby's continued work in numerous military and civic organizations led to a DACOWITS appointment in 1996 and a seat on its forces development and utilization subcommittee. In 1997, she became vice chair.

Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall established DACOWITS in 1951 during the Korean War to assist DoD in the recruitment and retention of service women. The committee advises the secretary of defense on policies and matters relating to women in the armed forces.

"We can be the eyes and ears of the secretary of defense and listen without agenda to people and their concerns," Bilby said. The greatest benefit of her job, she said, is the opportunity to meet military men and women and see their professionalism and career dedication.

The committee makes several trips each year to military installations to gather information from service members. The topic is whatever military personnel want to discuss. Discussion is in confidential group sessions broken down by rank and sex. Following each visit, the committee submits detailed reports to the secretary of defense.

"The bottom line is to make sure the military is able to fulfill its mission," Bilby said. "That involves using the best available talent pool." And, she said, to keep the best, the military has to provide the best. Bilby is proud DACOWITS is part of the solution.

"More than ever, we're making great strides for women," she said. Although Bilby saw career progression opportunities increase for women, there's much to be accomplished in the future, she said.

Bilby said current issues resemble past issues. She noted quality of life concerns such as day care, health care and the continuing need to prevent violence against women will always be issues.

"I think we've seen lots of good environments, but we can strive to make things better," Bilby said. "Leadership is the key."

Bilby stressed DACOWITS states its value in its vision: "DACOWITS sees an America where our daughters will have the same opportunities to serve the nation as our sons -- where full partnership between our women and men strengthens the power of America's military to guarantee our nation's freedom."

DACOWITS will select 1997 Executive Committee members Dec. 8. Bilby will also announce the committee's vision and goals for 1998 then.

The defense secretary appoints DACOWITS members for three-year commitments. The committee is balanced geographically with 30 to 40 civilian members selected for their achievements in business, professional fields and civic service.

Bilby received a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Arizona, Tucson. She is president of a pecan-marketing company, L&C Gourmet Products, Inc., and serves on the board of directors of the Tucson Airport Authority and the National Alumni Board of Directors of the University of Arizona. She is a member of the Agriculture Department's Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee, and other advisory and governing bodies.

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