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Lt. Cmdr. Valerie Riege, right, with the Pharmacy Department of U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, shares advice with an audience of more than 300 female Marines and sailors gathered at the Camp Foster Theater on Thursday for the daylong Sister to Sister Women’s Symposium.

Lt. Cmdr. Valerie Riege, right, with the Pharmacy Department of U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, shares advice with an audience of more than 300 female Marines and sailors gathered at the Camp Foster Theater on Thursday for the daylong Sister to Sister Women’s Symposium. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

Lt. Cmdr. Valerie Riege, right, with the Pharmacy Department of U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, shares advice with an audience of more than 300 female Marines and sailors gathered at the Camp Foster Theater on Thursday for the daylong Sister to Sister Women’s Symposium.

Lt. Cmdr. Valerie Riege, right, with the Pharmacy Department of U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, shares advice with an audience of more than 300 female Marines and sailors gathered at the Camp Foster Theater on Thursday for the daylong Sister to Sister Women’s Symposium. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

Maj. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin, commander of Marine Corps Base, Camp S.D. Butler, speaks to female Marines and sailors about some of the difficulties she has faced as a woman in the Corps during a women's symposium Thurday at the Camp Foster Theater.

Maj. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin, commander of Marine Corps Base, Camp S.D. Butler, speaks to female Marines and sailors about some of the difficulties she has faced as a woman in the Corps during a women's symposium Thurday at the Camp Foster Theater. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

The crowd of more than 300 female Marines and sailors chuckle as Maj. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin, commander of Marine Corps Base, Camp S.D. Butler, speaks to them near the end of a daylong women's symposium Thursday at the Camp Foster Theater.

The crowd of more than 300 female Marines and sailors chuckle as Maj. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin, commander of Marine Corps Base, Camp S.D. Butler, speaks to them near the end of a daylong women's symposium Thursday at the Camp Foster Theater. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — More than 300 Navy and Marine Corps women here heard experts talk Thursday about sexual-assault awareness, women’s health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, family advocacy and other support programs.

The daylong seminar at the Camp Foster Theater, the "Sister to Sister Women’s Symposium," was hosted by Navy and Marine Corps sexual-assault response coordinators.

It was also an opportunity for women from different units to network and learn from each other, said Marine Capt. Sally Falco, one of the symposium’s coordinators. Civilian attire was encouraged.

"It’s not about rank," Navy Lt. Elizabeth Drake, another coordinator, explained. "It’s because we’re females in the military, and we need to support each other."

The training was a big hit with Cpl. Dana Weissinger, 22, of Marine Wing Support Squadron 17, who has 2½ years in the Corps.

"A lot of things are directed at the males," Weissinger said.

A roundtable discussion, featuring senior female leaders, both officers and enlisted, drew a lot of responses from the crowd.

The panel was asked about such issues as the stress of working in a mostly male environment and juggling family and career responsibilities.

"I deal with the stress at the moment. If I don’t like the situation, I handle the situation right there," Sgt. Maj. Holly Prafke, with 3rd Supply Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, told the audience. "Don’t take the baggage home with you."

Lt. Cmdr. Valerie Riege said quality time with children is important. She said she makes sure each of her children gets an hour a week alone with her.

All panel members cautioned junior troops to take time before jumping into marriage.

Maj. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin, commander of Marine Corps Base, Camp S.D. Butler, spoke to the crowd near the end of the day, drawing applause and cheers with her opening comment: "We as women are making great strides."

She talked about her experience as one of the first female military police officers when the job was opened to women about 1976.

"It was difficult in the beginning," Krusa-Dossin said.

Another hurdle was teaching men how to deal with pregnant Marines, she said.

It wasn’t until 1979 that pregnant women were allowed to stay in the Corps, and she was one of the first to do so, she said. She had to fight the attitude that "troops just won’t listen to you because you’re pregnant," Krusa-Dossin said.

"Things have changed a lot in the 33 years that I‘ve been wearing this uniform," Krusa-Dossin said.


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