Women new to military service at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station now can tap into the wisdom of those with more experience through the new Choices mentoring program.

The first meeting, held Nov. 24 at the Marine Memorial Chapel, drew 50 participants.

Master Sgt. Diane Rowe, Iwakuni’s Equal Employment Opportunity adviser, said base women are enthusiastic about the Choices effort.

“Just the other day, a few days after our first meeting, a few of the female servicemembers who attended ran into each other by chance at the Eagles’ Nest,” a base restaurant. “I watched as they greeted each other with hugs.

“That’s something you don’t expect to see around here, and it made me really happy to see the bonding taking place already,” Rowe said Thursday.

Navy chaplain Lt. Carla Barry and Rowe began organizing Choices after hearing of a similar effort in Naples, Italy.

Barry described Choices as designed to support young women Marines and sailors by providing a positive environment through professional and personal mentoring and training. No such base-wide mentoring program was in place for younger servicemembers at Iwakuni, she said.

The program, they stressed, isn’t rank-based and is voluntary. It will address such issues as finance, health, drug and alcohol abuse, birth control, date rape and other life issues, they said.

“Maybe she has never had any personal encounters with a male. And maybe she needs someone to talk with about that,” Rowe said. “Well, some of us who are older can provide some form of direction. It’s about women helping women.

“We also plan to have guest facilitators to come and help us meet the needs of the younger female servicemembers,” Barry added.

The program’s target audience is female servicemembers with ranks of E-1 through E-5, but all are welcome, Rowe said.

Cpl. Martha Garcia, 28, a motor-transport driver with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, said she attended the first meeting and left sold on the program.

“I came in (to the military) a little later in life than most so I’m fairly new to the service,” Garcia said. “Choices is going to be very positive, especially to have someone to look up to and relate to. When I came into the military, I had no military background, and it’s important to be able to speak freely and ask questions.”

Lance Cpl. Lydia Daveys, 21, from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, attended the first meeting and said she looks forward to the next, set for Wednesday.

“It’s a great program because there are so few female Marines and sailors here and it’s good to draw them together, to get to know others. Female Marines and sailors here are anxious to develop closer relationships, and learn from the life experience of others with more experience,” Daveys said.

Rowe said self-esteem is a key to female servicemembers’ success.

“We also plan … to teach self-love. Now, that may seem a little different to most people; however, once you can accept yourself it can and will enhance your readiness for your command,” Rowe said.

When she was a young Marine, Rowe said, she had a hard time expressing herself to others; a program such as Choices would have helped.

“In my view it’s time to give back,” she said. “Our young Marines and sailors are our future, so let’s equip them with all the tools they need.”

The Choices program will meet from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the 15th of each month at the chapel.

Call Barry at DSN 253-3371 or Rowe at DSN 253-4186 for more information.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now