WASHINGTON -- Thomas B. Modly, Acting Secretary of the Navy, hosted an International Women’s Day Salute March 5 in recognition of Women’s History Month and the March 8 global observance of International Women’s Day.
The Salute provided an opportunity for the Department of the Navy to reflect on progress made and to celebrate the acts of courage, determination, and achievement by women who contribute to their communities, countries and international society.
“This evening is a fitting tribute to all of the women who have taken to the sea, broken new ground, pursued innovation and demonstrated leadership in the service of a more peaceful and prosperous world,” said Modly. “The examples of the past inspire our dedication, while the challenges of tomorrow fuel our motivation. Let’s take advantage of this gathering to move forward together.”
The event showcased a moderated panel discussion led by NBC News National Security and Military Correspondent Courtney Kube. The panel was comprised of four trailblazing women who shared their insight into the opportunities available to and challenges facing women in support of peace and security around the world: Martha Barcéna Coqui, Mexican Ambassador to the United States; Jennifer Stewart, the chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense; U.S. Navy Capt. Jennifer Couture, a recognized leader in the Surface Warfare community; and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst.
Ernst, whose career includes 23 years of service in the Army Reserve and the Iowa National Guard, reflected on her experience and the progress she’s seen made in the area of gender inclusivity.
“When I commissioned in the Army Engineers through the Iowa State University Army ROTC program and eventually went on to Officer Basic School I was one of 12 females in a class of 180 students,” said Ernst. “At the time, men could become combat engineers, but women didn’t have that opportunity – not because of our talent, our skills, or our abilities – because of our gender. Now, I look [at the force] today and I am thrilled that we now present women, including my daughter, the opportunities to choose.”
The more than 100 guests and participants were guided through group discussions about: inclusivity and diversity of thought in national security; empowerment through education and economic development in the U.S. and partner nations; economic and political stability in societies that empower women; and meaningful participation of women around the world in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peace building activities and strategies.
A key discussion point during the event was The Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 that was signed into law establishing and promoting the meaningful participation of women across different facets of the peace and security process. The 2017 Act mandated the creation of a government-wide strategy to increase the participation of women in security processes.
Throughout the event, guests also viewed a wide variety of historical imagery, displays, and videos showcasing major milestones and current achievements of women across the Marine Corps, Navy and Department of the Navy civilian workforce.
“We don’t put on our uniforms every day and do what we do for praise or recognition, so it’s really inspiring to be surrounded by women and men who support the achievements women have made and continue to make,” said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Kristina Koch, assigned to Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education Command, when asked about the importance of the night’s discussions. “We’re on ships, and in the air, and we’re now on submarines and we will continue to break down barriers – whether they are cultural or logistical – for future generations of female leaders.”
The guests represented leaders, and rising stars from the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID, the media, U.S. Congress, International Missions to the U.S., economic empowerment organizations, security-focused think tanks in the Washington D.C. area, and the United States Naval Academy. Each person in attendance was invited due to their essential and active role in advancing female empowerment in peace and security.