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CHIEMSEE, Germany — Puzzle pieces were used as a symbol to show American women living in Europe how to make their military communities come together with the right approach and hard work.

The four-day conference of the American Women’s Activities, Germany opened Sunday at the American Forces Recreation Center in Chiemsee with the first round of speakers and a session teaching volunteers leadership and organizational skills.

On Monday, Patricia K. Shinseki, wife of Army chief of staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, told the gathering that family members, especially volunteers, make a difference in every military community.

Throughout the first days of AWAG’s 47th annual spring conference, dubbed “Making the Pieces Fit,” hourlong classes were offered at the Lake Hotel. The 260 participants could choose from a host of sessions ranging from women empowerment to making the body and mind feel better through physical surroundings.

Nearly 40 AWAG speakers offered suggestions on ways to improve individual volunteering programs throughout Europe.

The core sessions include instructions on how to be a president, secretary, treasurer or parliamentarian. Other topics included protocol, bazaar organization and production, fund-raising, newsletters and Family Readiness Groups.

Both military and civilian speakers were to conclude the conference by addressing topics such as volunteer management, motivation and recognition, dealing with difficult personalities, money to give away and public speaking.

Maj. Gen. Kathryn A. Frost, Army and Air Force Exchange Services commander, and Mary M. Keller, Military Child Education Coalition executive director, were among the scheduled speakers.

Training sessions end Wednesday, allowing time for everyone to join in a final night of fun with karaoke before heading home Thursday.

Gen. B.B. Bell, U.S. Army Europe commander, addressed the women Monday evening before the Hawaiian luau feast.

The general, wearing a couple of leis of his own, said that after Sept. 11 the American way of life was threatened.

He said military men and women were fighting to help preserve it, and needed family support to complete the mission.

“AWAG is a rock — a solid foundation,” Bell said. “I know there’s not always enough money or enough opportunity for everything to get done, but things get done anyway.”

Conference participants came from all over Germany as well as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

AWAG is a nonprofit, private organization. A volunteer board of governors administers AWAG, which represents all branches of the armed forces and civilians serving within the European community.

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