MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
“If I didn’t join, I would’ve been on drugs, homeless or even dead.”
The words set a powerful tone for the Women’s Leadership & Education Committee symposium held on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 27, 2022.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Diana E. Bacolod, sergeant major of 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, conveyed her experience to a group of wide-eyed Marines and Sailors. She recalled hardships in her early years and as a young woman, including going through pregnancy at 16 and the consequences of surrounding herself with the wrong crowd.
Bacolod credits the Marine Corps with many of the positive changes in her life.
“I would not have made this name for myself,” Bacolod said. “It didn’t come until I picked the right group of mentors and peers. It didn’t come until I gained confidence and empowerment. And that is what I hope you take from this symposium today… be okay with being vulnerable so you can get the help you need.”
The committee, created in 2017 by Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, provides mentorship, empowerment, and an all-inclusive environment to maximize talents, abilities and knowledge for Marines and Sailors of all ages and leadership levels.
The symposium, comprised of Marines and Sailors of diverse backgrounds, provides members with the opportunity to discuss common issues and topics females face while navigating their respective careers. Providing information, mentorship, and career development remains a key goal for the event.
This year’s symposium touched on the topics of confidence, values, and resiliency. In addition to active-duty members, the committee hosted guest speakers to provide information and outlooks from outside of the military. This year’s event included Jason G. Wanstreet, a professor and the chief executive officer of STRIDES SCI Functional Fitness, to provide his insights on training, injury prevention, and recovery, something leaders can reference in developing their young Marines and Sailors.
“The guest speaker gave us information that I never knew, and I look forward to not only using it for myself but also teaching other Marines on how to train better,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Paige McFarland, an AH-1 Z Viper pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, MAG-39.
The symposium provided opportunities for breakout sessions where guest speakers shared their stories and discussed topics like the Artemis Program, a Camp Pendleton program with the specific goal of making it easier for pregnant and postpartum Marines to receive base resources and know they are not alone.
U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Wendy Cajas discussed the program during her breakout session. The team behind the program developed it to meet the unique needs for active-duty mothers. The program provides mentorship and educational tools to help active-duty mothers stay fit, healthy, and balance life as a Marine and mother.
“I personally do not have kids, but I think what I learned is extremely valuable for female Marines,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Maria Innes, an administrative specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, MAG-39. “I am going to pass the information I learned about Artemis to the females I know who are pregnant or had their kids already.”
The symposium remains a key part in MAG-39’s development of Marines. The networking and mentorship offered to those who attend continues to build upon the individual’s success and strengthens their future as leaders within the Marine Corps.
The mission of MAG-39 is to provide combat-ready and capable Marines to support naval expeditionary missions through organized combat aviation support, aviation ground support and aviation logistics. The committee remains a critical resource in helping MAG-39 maintain its force readiness by providing Marines and Sailors an additional opportunity for professional and personal development.