TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Cmdr. Cathy Kimmel and Lt. j.g. Brandy Dixon, both from Commander, Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR), represented the surface warfare community at the fifth annual Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) national training conference in Traverse City, Mich. June 2-6.
SAIGE is the only national non-profit organization that advocates for American Indian and Alaska Native government employees.
The two were able to interact with and speak to groups of federal government employees and students who were part of the SAIGE Youth Track, a program designed to give Native American college students the opportunity to learn about government careers.
The conference also hosted a career fair, luncheons and social events related to the theme of the conference which was “Blessed by Tradition: Honoring our Ancestors through Government Service.”
“I was extremely impressed with the accomplishments, both scholastic and personal, of the Youth Track students,” said Dixon of her interactions with the Youth Track students. “It was a privilege to meet such extraordinary young people. Their pride and dedication to their Native American ancestry is inspiring.”
SAIGE created the Youth Track program to encourage Native American youth to realize their potential to become leaders in their communities and schools, continue their education by obtaining a college degree, and to seek a career in the federal government. SAIGE also provides college scholarships to Youth Track students and helps them attend the annual conference to meet with various government organizations.
During an awards banquet June 2, six Department of Defense (DoD) employees were presented with the SAIGE Meritorious Award. Hospital Corpsman Second Class (SW) Joelene K. Solares, one of the six award recipients, was the only Department of the Navy employee to receive this honor. She received the award partially for her successful tours on board USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
“This gathering of culturally similar peoples was unprecedented in my twenty year naval career and the theme of this year’s conference was the drumbeat of all conference training sessions,” said Kimmel who is an enrolled member of the Suquamish tribe. “It was an honor to witness the DoD military banquet honoring Indian active duty service personnel. I look forward to attending SAIGE in the future and highly recommend it to other American Indian and Alaska Native federal employees.”