MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The Women’s Leadership and Education Committee (WLEC) from Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39 hosted the third Annual Leadership and Education Symposium held at the Hall of Heroes on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 13, 2019.
More than 200 Marines and Sailors of all ranks eagerly took their seats for opening remarks from Brig. Gen. Roberta L. Shea, commanding general of 1st Marine Logistics Group.
Shea opened the event with her favorite leadership principle – know yourself and seek self-improvement – stating “it’s the core of who we are as United States Marines and our attitudes toward leadership.”
She emphasized that this year’s theme, titled “Deliberately Inspire Others”, affirmatively reinforces who Marines are as leaders, and that this leadership principle enables others to realize great potential.
While the symposium targeted awareness of gender issues, this year’s symposium featured additional leadership training that provided valuable skills and insight that will enforce sound leadership and achievement throughout the unit.
Throughout the day, guest speakers held discussions on several topics designed to spark thought and to share personal and professional perspectives. The topics focused on sound leadership and personal growth – all with the goal to start a conversation and spark action.
Another speaker, Dr. Alessandra Wall, a clinical psychologist and life coach, said “my goal was to get everyone in the audience to think more honestly about the bias they face and the type of bias they put on other people, with the hope that they consciously choose to try to interact, look at, and think differently about a female service member, starting the moment they leave the room.”
This thought process can be applied not only to women in the Armed Forces, but to all walks of life.
“Awareness without action is nothing,” said Wall. “I hope to create a little bit of insight and spark action. What is everyone in this room doing today that they can do differently tomorrow?”
Women’s Leadership and Education Committee
Established in 2015, the WLEC represents each squadron within MAG-39 and personnel from Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, totaling 10 members.
From the start, the WLEC has held focus groups to engage in conversations within the squadrons and bring awareness to challenges that Marines, particularly females, may face throughout their careers.
“We were beginning to see a pattern of challenges emerge in the squadrons,” said Navy Lt. Cdr. Adrienne Benton, former chaplain of MAG-39. “Female Marines felt that they had no outlet and they needed mentorship since there were very few females in the squadrons.”
Benton, one of the founders of the committee, traveled from South Carolina to attend the event. As a founder of the committee, it was under her charge that the committee identified challenges and provided feedback to MAG-39 leaders, opening the door for the first MAG-39 women’s leadership symposium in 2015. Based on the feedback from the event, later symposiums expanded to the entirety of MAG-39, and this year has grown to include units across Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
“I am very grateful for their leadership and their vision and to see what the symposium has become,” Benton said. “To see the other organizations who are here to support is amazing. I’m excited for what this committee is able to do and how they are going to grow it even further.”
The first symposium, a test between the WLEC and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 39, was a four-hour event held at the air station with approximately 60 participants. This year’s symposium, a now eight-hour event, has nearly quadrupled in participants with nearly 50 percent attendance from male Marines.
Guadalupe Romero-Wanstreet, embedded behavioral and mental health specialist at MAG-39 and current chair of the WLEC, said this year’s symposium emphasized “solutions-based” training. After gaining insight and feedback from attendance at leadership symposiums held around the nation, Romero identified one common trend – no solutions.
“We didn’t hear solutions [in years past], it was more of a one-way conversation,” said Romero. “Here we are encouraging two-way conversations for Marines to hear feedback and engage in ideas so they can take something away from this event and bring it back to their units.”
“We need to inspire others and we need to do so deliberately,” she said. “We are paving a path for others and that is my way of inspiring, both in personal and professional growth.”
Col. William J. Bartolomea, commanding officer of MAG-39, made it a priority to attend the workshops and was impressed at the turnout of the event.
“It speaks to leadership. It’s what we as Marines pride ourselves on,” said Bartolomea. “A good leader is inspirational, but it doesn’t happen by accident. Good leaders take actions to improve themselves and to improve their understanding, and today is a great example of how we are trying to do that.”
With another successful symposium, Bartolomea is hopeful to see the event expand throughout the Marine Corps, with emphasis on raising awareness that regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion, all leaders need to understand how to best connect with their Marines – an understanding which helps make every unit successful.
“This event has been a resounding success and not only strengthens us as individuals, but strengthens us as a team,” Bartolomea said. “This is an opportunity to educate ourselves and improve individually, and as leaders, make MAG-39 as good as it can be because at the end of the day it’s the Marines and Sailors of MAG-39 that make us ready and lethal.”
The foundation of MAG-39 is rooted in taking care of its Marines and Sailors through comprehensive and balanced programs that contribute to mission, family and personal readiness, resiliency and quality of life for the whole family.