ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) --
The Department of Defense collaborated with the Military Women’s Memorial to host a Women, Peace and Security panel, March 6, in Arlington. The “Beyond Firsts” panel was created in celebration of Women’s History Month and, for the first time, all four of the women who are currently 4-star generals and admirals were featured.
“All of us here and you in the audience have inherited this expanding legacy of those tenacious people who have turned back the tide of cultural lethargy and decided to serve their nation in many different ways,” said panelist Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, during her opening remarks.
“It's awesome to see everyone here. It reinvigorates our commitment to continue to get after any remaining vestiges of concerns and barriers that there might be out there to someone fulfilling their purpose in life, here in our service. That's what really motivates us every day because, let me be clear, all of these efforts to ensure true inclusion in the military is first and foremost about building a lethal, agile and ready joint force. That is the first and foremost thing on our mind[s] every day as we get to work. ‘Are we ready? Are we ready today? And are we ready tomorrow?’”
In addition to questions from the moderator, a question-and-answer portion allowed service members from the audience to ask questions and share concerns. They asked about cultural change at their current levels, what to do about the ‘frozen middle’ and whether or not women’s names would now be featured on ships and bases that are in the process of name changes.
“So, historically, militaries reflected the societies that supported them, and we are at the 50th year of our all-volunteer force, and our force should continue to evolve to incorporate all of the talents and demographics of America,” Van Ovost explained.
“This is especially true as we enter this era of global strategic competition. We need diversity of thought, diversity of experience and capabilities all pulled together because we're getting after some really wicked hard problems and strategic competition, and we need everyone at the table supporting us, and we are examples.
Leadership matters, inclusion matters and you see us now all generating results at the strategic, operational and tactical level. So that's why we have to continue to recruit and retain talented women and men in our service, capable of thinking creatively differently, innovating with the technology that we have so that we can create new concepts and capabilities so that we could remain first and foremost, the most lethal fighting force in the world.”
Throughout the event, the panelists also discussed their experiences, challenges and barriers they’ve faced and overcome as servicewomen, the impacts of having a diverse, inclusive warfighting force, and the importance of recruiting and retaining the best talent.
“We have come a long way, but I'll tell you, there are great opportunities. You've heard it here,” Van Ovost explained. “We have great training and initiatives and the quality of life and quality of service have tremendously changed in the 35 years I've been in this service, and it continues to change to meet our needs. We're the most lethal, agile, and ready force in the world and because of you, we will continue to be; so thank you.”