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News | April 5, 2024

Wisconsin Army National Guard hosts inaugural Women’s Symposium

By Staff Sgt. Amber Peck Wisconsin Army National Guard

The Wisconsin Army National Guard hosted its first Women’s Symposium on March 29 — an event aimed at reinforcing the organization's commitment to gender equality and empowering leaders, women and allies to advocate for one another.

Held in the Mitby Theater at Madison College, over 150 military personnel, civilians and community members interested in supporting and promoting diversity within our armed forces attended this historic event.

Wisconsin National Guard state leadership, Brig. Gen. Matthew Strub and Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Patrouille, kicked off the event.

“When you leave a legacy, it’s what you do to build up others and to build your team — and you all have been doing that and have an awesome opportunity to do that going forward, and its events like these that get us there,” Patrouille said. “I am amazed by you.”

The keynote speaker of the event was Danica Roark Domokos, director of cross-cultural engagement at the United States Air Force Special Operations School. Domokos spoke about her experiences both as a woman in a male-dominated career field and as a civilian among military members.

A panel discussion on the topic “If I Knew Then What I Know Now” followed, comprised of four Wisconsin National Guard Air and Army leaders totaling over 130 years of service. Retired Brig. Gen. Joni Mathews (36 years), retired Chief Master Sgt. Meredith Conn (31 years), retired Command Sgt. Maj. Georgett Hall (29 years), and soon-to-be retired Col. Josephine Daniels (34 years) shared their stories and remarkable achievements as well as barriers they’ve encountered along the way and how they worked to overcome them.

Master Sgt. Savannah Wanek gave a presentation on the Parenthood, Pregnancy and Postpartum (P3) program, a new and historic landmark program that represents groundbreaking equity and support policies for Soldiers and is the culmination of years of work by Wisconsin Army National Guard volunteers.

Lt. Col. Shannon Hellenbrand, Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Diversity Advisory Team leader and the only National Guard officer on the Army’s Women’s Initiative Team, spoke to the crowd candidly about how “the struggle is real,” vulnerabilities, and the importance of embracing gender diversity.

Staff Sgt. Amanda Stock, a P3 course advisor, spoke about mentoring relationships, their importance, and how to find a mentor or mentee.

The final portion of the symposium was a panel discussion by women leaders on the topic of “Today’s truth.” Panelists included Sgt. 1st Class Anna Duncan, Drill Sergeant of the Year Staff Sgt. Ashley Buhl, Maj. Kayla Krueger, Command Sgt. Maj. Terri Vollrath, Ms. Danica Domokos, and Lt. Col. Maria Garcia.

The women’s symposium provided a platform for open discussions about the challenges, triumphs and unique experiences of female Soldiers while fostering an environment of empowerment, mentorship and career development. The event showcased initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion, provided a platform for demonstrating the importance of diverse perspectives, skills and life experiences, and worked to build a stronger and more resilient organization while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.