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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jennae Kahler, an F-35B Lightning II aircraft electrical systems technician with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 311, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, discusses the role women play in the Marine Corps during a luncheon with representatives from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services on MCAS Miramar, California, April 22, 2024. The purpose of the luncheon was to conduct research on behalf of Lloyd J. Austin III, the Secretary of Defense, in an informal setting. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Seferino Gamez)

Photo by PFC Serefino Gamez

MCAS Miramar and 3rd MAW Marines support research on women in the armed forces

30 Apr 2024 | Cpl. Nikolas Mascroft 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

U.S. Marines with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing hosted the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services from April 22-23, 2024, to support research on service member experiences, attitudes, and recommendations related to personnel policies in the Marine Corps.

DACOWITS is a Department of Defense Federal Advisory Committee that provides recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on matters and policies relating to the recruitment, retention, employment, integration, well-being, and treatment of women in the armed forces of the United States.

Col. Thomas M. Bedell, commanding officer of MCAS Miramar, welcomed the Committee to the air station, expressing his commitment to fostering an environment conducive to the well-being of his service members.

“We are trying to accomplish the mission together, and create an environment of honor, dignity and respect,” Bedell said.

Bedell shared his mother’s experience as the first female professor at the Virginia Military Institute.

“She dealt with some of the same issues that service members today might be facing. We want to offer any way to help with what your Committee is aiming to accomplish during your visit.”

The Committee collects qualitative data from focus groups and interactions with servicemembers during annual installation visits. During their visit to the air station, DACOWITS representatives conducted separate focus groups with male and female Marines assigned to the 3rd MAW and MCAS Miramar. Sixty Marines of varying ranks participated. The committee also led focus groups with Marines on Camp Pendleton.

The Committee uses focus groups to gather data based on the perspectives of service members on certain topics throughout the Department of Defense. This data is combined with information from multiple sources, to include briefings and written responses from the Defense Department, Service-level military representatives, and subject matter experts, and used to present recommendations to the Secretary of Defense.

This year, the committee has planned 11 visits to military installations and aims to conduct more than 60 focus groups to support their research topics.

Dr. Samantha Weeks, a DACOWITS member, and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who, among other accomplishments, was the first female solo demonstration pilot on the Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, emphasized the value of the content brought up in the focus groups. Weeks said the Committee uses these focus groups to gather data from personal experiences, stories, and perspectives from service members.

“These installation visits allow us to conduct focus groups and hear from service members in the field,” Weeks said. “The research and recommendations we provide to the SecDef are as holistic as possible and capture both male and female perspectives from across the military services.”

The Marines who took part in the focus groups provided invaluable contributions to essential research, shaping potential improvements that will benefit every member of the U.S. military.

“I believe that the work DACOWITS does benefits and supports service women and service men through our activities, advocacy, and recommendations.” Weeks said.

Capt. Nicole Song, the action officer who organized the two-day event on MCAS Miramar, also found value in supporting the DACOWITS mission and the feedback the Committee gathers.

"Statistically, women make up a small percentage of the military and historically, the disparity is even more pronounced for the Marine Corps compared to the other branches," Song said. "The Marine Corps prides itself in doing more with less, but that also means that each individual Marine has a greater impact on the organization. Doing research to make informed policy to allow women in the Marine Corps to work at their full potential is just one way for us to be more effective in completing the mission.”

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