Surface Warriors Attend SSLA Annual Symposium

By Lt. Brandy Dixon, SURFOR Diversity Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. (18 June 2009) - Over 45 Surface Warfare Officers (SWO) joined the more than 600 servicewomen from the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps at the 22nd Annual Sea Services Leadership Association (SSLA) Women’s Leadership Symposium on 18-19 June to discuss this year’s theme, “Success strategies for the week, the year, and your Career.”

Notable attendees included Dee Dee Myers, the first female White House Press Secretary; Vernice Armour, the Marine Corps' first African-American female pilot; Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, Chief of Naval Personnel; and Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, Commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and the senior female officer in the SWO community.

The conference offered the women SWOs a chance to engage in professional development, mentoring and networking with the large gathering of sea service women. A highlight for the SWO contingency was the community breakout session that allowed attendees to meet with fellow community members and discuss topics specifically relevant to them. Rear Adm. Pottenger opened the SWO session, followed by a personnel detailing presentation and a leadership panel, during which attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback to senior female leaders of the Surface Community.

During the SWO session, officers engaged in frank discussion about the Surface Warfare community. Leadership, training, and work/life balance were the dominant topics and the ability to hear first hand how community leaders faced these challenges themselves was a real benefit to the attendees.

“The women of the SWO Leadership panel specifically allowed me to realize that it is possible to raise a family and command a warship at the same time,” said Lt. Suzanne Ritter, currently serving on the USS Benfold.

From the record number of participants to the inspirational and accomplished speakers, the 2009 SSLA Women’s Leadership Symposium was an amazing opportunity to celebrate the contributions of the women in our sea services and, according to Lt. Cmdr. Shannon Winfield, Staff Director from Commander, Destroyer Squadron 22, a revitalizing and pivotal experience. “I was on the fence about staying a SWO,” said Winfield, ”but attending reminded me what I love about it, and it helped to meet women who didn't seem so different from me that were still SWO and making it work for them.”