JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C., –
On March 13, 2015, five women, from different military cultures, spoke to an audience about the education and empowerment of women continuing to shape the US military.
From the civil war battlefield to the present, stories of women's contributions to military history were chronicled in the 15th Airlift Squadron auditorium. The panelists acknowledged the contributions of military women who served before them and spoke of the challenges they had faced and overcome in their own careers.
The event kicked off with opening words from Col. John Lamontagne, 437th Airlift Wing commander.
Referring to the women's achievements in the military he said, "We've come a long way but we still have a way to go."
The event's special guest echoed Lamontagne's sentiment.
Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, U.S. Army Reserve Deputy Chief of Staff brought more than 26 years of military experience and insight to the discussion. Today, she serves more than 206,000 Soldiers in an all-volunteer force.
"Amazing women bring skill sets to any environment," said Smith. "They don't need to be coddled. They don't break. They prove themselves."
Smith added she hoped to see more women integrated into combat career fields.
Some of Team Charleston's finest represented their military branches on the panel as well.
Capt. Erica Stooksbury, 15 AS C-17 instructor pilot, graduated from the Air Force Academy prior to training other pilots in Charleston.
Stooksbury included the importance of leadership, compassion and mentoring as components of a successful military career. She also noted that in her young career, her gender has never been an issue.
Stooksbury's experience is a testament to the efforts of the women who served before her.
Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes, Naval Consolidated Brig - Charleston deputy director, prisoner management, brought the warrior ethos of the U.S. Marines to the panel.
"All of my career, I've fought alongside Marines," said Barnes. "Not the males, not the women, but all Marines. The one to my right and left."
Barnes added the respect of all service members is paramount.
Chief Petty Officer Andrea Navarro, NAVCONBRIG Charleston parole and release leading chief petty officer, represented the Navy and offered advice to all service members.
"Find a mentor and set goals," said the 19-year veteran NCO. "Find your place to make an impact."
"Be proud to be a woman," said Lt. Col. Demetria Walker, 1189th Transportation Brigade commander in closing remarks. "Be proud of what we've done and what we've contributed to this nation."