‘Sisters in Arms’ Program goes International

Women of the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces share experiences with their female colleagues at the regional military exercise

Lieutenant Colonel Salawati Yahaa of the Malaysian Joint Force Headquarters shares her experiences with being a mother of four while serving her country at the first International Sisters in Arms meeting held during the Cobra Gold military exercise.

This article was originally published on the U.S. Army website on February 18.

Phitsanulok, Thailand — Women representing several countries participated in the first-of-its-kind International Sisters in Arms meeting February 17 at Camp Akatosarot in Phitsanulok, Thailand, during the multinational military exercise Cobra Gold 2014.

The goal of Sisters in Arms is to empower women by developing strong bonds and partnerships.

Members of the Royal Thai Army, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the Malaysian Army, the Australian Air Force and U.S. armed forces participated in the event.

“You are a part of this first international program, where we take the concept of the banyan tree and branch even further,” said U.S. Army Colonel Sheila Bryant, commander of the 10th Regional Support Command on the Japanese island of Okinawa and mediator of the event.

Bryant was referring to the banyan tree logo created by the U.S. Army Pacific Sisters in Arms committee, whose motto is “Rooted as one, branching to all.”

U.S. Army Pacific Sisters is open to all, and is designed to educate, mentor and empower women.

“Women have served in the U.S. military for more than 100 years, and mentorship has been around even longer,” Bryant said. “Mentorship is tough, and it is tough because you want to be the best at your job yet have a great family life at the same time.”

“But how do you accomplish it all?” Bryant asked. “And how do we meet these challenges and help each other through these challenges?”

Discussions ranged from various mentorship programs to juggling career and family life.

U.S. Army Sergeant Precious Green, a human resources specialist stationed in Hawaii, discussed some of the challenges she overcomes as a single parent and a soldier. Green said despite her busy schedule, she finds time to participate in mentorship programs.

Having an understanding family helps contribute to the success of female members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, according to Sergeant Mai Iwata.

Lieutenant Colonel Salawati Yahaa of the Malaysian Joint Force Headquarters shared her experiences from the perspective of being a mother of four while continuing to serve her country.

Lieutenant Sally Maynard of the Australian Air Force talked about her military mentorship program.

“To be able to bring all of the international community together, not just across our Army but across the globe, into one forum to discuss issues and welcome each other was a great idea, and it should continue,” said U.S. Army Major Altwan Whitfield, who is stationed in Hawaii.

“To [speak with] individuals not just from Hawaii but all over the U.S. Pacific Command, and a commander that is from a different region of [U.S. Pacific Command], was one of the best experiences I’ve had since I’ve been in the military,” Whitfield said.

Cobra Gold, in its 33rd year, is a multinational exercise designed to advance regional security and ensure effective responses to regional crises by exercising a multinational force from nations sharing common goals in the Asia-Pacific region.

“This is such a good program; I hope it branches out to other services and other countries,” said Green.