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Female officers find support through nonprofit

Event at recent symposium created to inspire

U.S. Air Force photo

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) - AcademyWomen sponsored its 9th annual Officer Women Leadership Symposium Sept. 21-22 at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va.

To go along with this year's theme: Igniting the power and passion within, the two-day symposium was designed to inspire, inform and connect current, future and former women military officers from all the military services, according to its website.

The symposium highlighted esteemed leaders from the military, public and private sectors to include entrepreneurs, writers, an archeologist, an Olympian, a Catholic nun, a social worker, filmmakers and a flag-officer panel with representatives from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

Representing the Air Force on the flag-officer panel was Maj. Gen. Sharon K.G. Dunbar, Air Force District of Washington commander, who was joined by Brig. Gen. Lori E. Reynolds, commanding general of Marine Recruit Depot Parris Island and the Eastern Recruiting Region; Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson, Army Reserve deputy chief; Rear Adm. Cari B. Thomas, Response Policy assistant commandant; and Rear Adm. Margaret Deluca Klein, U.S. Cyber Command chief of staff.

Some key topics covered during the symposium included the power of relationships, leading change for military and veteran women, living a legacy now, igniting the athletic passion within, healthy living, igniting the power of women globally and the power of spiritual passion. While the event targeted women officers, officers-in-training and veterans, others were welcome to attend as well, to include men and senior enlisted personnel.

During the panel discussion, Dunbar talked about leaders who intervened and encouraged her to stay in the military when she was close to separating.

"I actually tried to separate twice from the Air Force," Dunbar said. "My wing commander called me into his office and said ‘You have a lot of potential and we'd hate to lose you. Why don't you think about it a little more?' As a result of that intervention, I stayed in. Today, we have very capable women in our service and it is important to empower them to continue to serve."

While the panel talked about their passion for serving, they also discussed the importance of work-life balance.

"I think our military is working to understand that the work-life balance is an acute one," Dunbar said. "I can tell you what you need to do to get ahead in the military, but my main goal is for people to have a fulfilling life with no regrets. Sacrificing a family is not required to have a successful career. It is not easy, but you can do it."

Dunbar also took time to point out the importance of taking advantage of leadership workshops.

"I wish we had conferences like these when I was a young officer," Dunbar said. "These allow you to see what others are struggling with and how to address existing issues."

AcademyWomen was founded in 2003 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the professional and personal growth of women from the nation's officer development programs. The organization was created by and for women military officers as a ready source of support, mentorship, personal and professional development. To learn more about AcademyWomen, visit its website at

Photo: Air Force District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Sharon K.G. Dunbar, left, speaks during a flag-officer panel at the 9th annual Officer Women Leadership Symposium Sept. 22 at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, Arlington, Va.

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