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NEWS | Jan. 23, 2020

Joint Base MDL personnel attend Women Defenders Symposium

By Staff Sgt. Jake Carter 87th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

On Jan. 17, over 25 women from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, attended a Women Defenders Symposium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where they were able to connect with members of the Philadelphia Police Department, United States Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

During the event, members from Joint Base MDL were able to build relationships with their fellow defender counterparts and how being in a male dominant career field can cause rifts between male and female co-workers.

For Michelle Bracken, member of the National Organization of Black Women in Law Enforcement, being a women in the secret service taught her to never give up on her dreams and said everyone attending the symposium should do the same.

“We are a part of a police force that is a male dominated career field,” said Bracken. “Today, I want to make sure that everyone in this room knows that they have a voice. Being a woman, your opinion matters and you should never give up because someone might tell you no.”

During her career, Bracken described trying to become a counter sniper a part of USSS but was always turned down for one reason or another, leading her to conclude it was because of her gender.

“I put in for counter sniper the first time and I didn’t get it, so what do you think I did? I applied again,” said Bracken. “Second time I passed the test, but I didn’t get the position. I applied a third time yet to be turned down again. The fourth time I made it to the end and then they told me it was a budget issue. During this time, it taught me never to give up on what I wanted to do even though I had to endure obstacles along the way.”

The symposium let personnel from Joint Base MDL share similar experiences that they have encountered in the military. The event, which was created by members from the Joint Base MDL chapel, thought this event would be a gateway to bridge military and civilian authorities to work together.

“Our goal was to unite them in a neutral space and to give them an opportunity to speak in a transparent manner,” said Airman 1st Class Jasmine Blount, 87th Air Base Wing Religious Affairs Airman. “A few recurring topics that were discussed amongst the group comprised of gaining courage, recognizing your strengths, and building resilience. By sharing their experiences, we hope they were able to take away a better understanding as to how to navigate through a male dominated career field.”

There was a positive turnout at the symposium and organizers gathered great feedback. The chapel team is planning on creating more opportunities for members at Joint Base MDL to participate in events like this.

“We plan on having more events for other (career fields),” said Blount. “Currently, we are planning a Symposium for our Women maintainers.  We want every service member to understand how much they are needed and appreciated. With the outstanding and raving feedback we received from the women that attended, we will definitely have more events in the future.”