Published January 20, 2014
A female mentoring program at a sprawling Army base in Georgia is drawing criticism for its emphasis on domestic pastimes, like collecting coupons, as well as its slogan, “Divas in Boots.”
Army Times reports such programs -- intended to combat female soldiers’ occasional feelings of isolation among such a male-dominated institution as the military -- are popping up at bases around the country, like Fort Jackson in South Carolina and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
But after the first, Jan. 10 meeting of the female networking initiative at Fort Stewart in Georgia -- home of the 3rd Infantry Division and the largest Army base east of the Mississippi River -- concerns arose over just what exactly the women warriors were up to.
“It was for housewives, not soldiers — and not all of us are married,” one 21-year-old specialist who attended told Army Times. “I would have liked more about universities or [the scholarship program] Green to Gold.”
“Talking about sports bras, makeup brushes and couponing is a conversation that needs to be left outside of work, with a battle buddy or someone,” another female soldier told the publication. “If we’re going to have classes like these, then make them more specific to the regulations and standards that we have to uphold.”
But not everyone who participated came away with negative sentiment about the event.
Col. Dianne Pannes, its organizer, reportedly characterized almost 90 percent of the feedback as positive, and Capt. Katie Martinez added, “I felt very inspired.”
And Martinez says it wasn’t all coupons and cosmetics, telling Army Times some of the speakers who addressed that inaugural gathering -- among them Lt. Gen. Mary Legere and Maj. Gen. Nadja West -- spent more than an hour answering enlisted soldiers’ questions and talking frankly about their careers.
Less than 10 percent of Fort Stewart’s soldiers are female, according to Pannes, and Army Times writes Maj. Gen. John Murray signed off on the program in order to combat feelings of isolation among the base’s female garrison.
As for the couponing class, Martinez called it “incredibly popular,” saying it nicely dovetailed more serious topics addressed like smoking cessation and healthy eating.