In his opening remarks yesterday at the Women in Military and Security Conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala, the commander of U.S. Southern Command said the meeting was convened to talk about the future of professional military and security forces in the region.
Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd spoke at WIMCON 17, a conference on integrating gender considerations in force development and military operations cohosted this year by the Southcom commander and the Guatemalan armed forces.
Tidd also spoke during last year’s inaugural WIMCON meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago.
“The agenda of this conference may be a discussion of women in the military, but this is not just a woman's issue,” Tidd told the audience. "We are here today to work through something much larger than that … we are here because we know that we must adapt in the face of the complex missions facing our men and women.”
Success and operational effectiveness depend on military capabilities and in accepting and valuing differences as strengths, the admiral said.
“When we value diversity of thought and experience, we become stronger, more creative and more cohesive. When we respect different opinions, we build trust and mutual confidence with the people around us. When we can include perspectives outside our own boundaries, we're better able to reach consensus to foster cooperation and to succeed as one,” he added.
Tidd said the goal is to mainstream such ideas, to make them so normal and accepted that there is no need for a dedicated conference to discuss them.
Challenge to Attendees
At last year’s inaugural conference in Trinidad and Tobago, Tidd said he made three pledges. The first was to bring a dedicated and operationally experienced gender adviser to the next meeting, and he brought such an expert to WIMCON 2017.
The second was to encourage last year's participants to develop their own national action plans, and Tidd said this year part of the conference will be dedicated to discussing the progress made to date.
The third was a promise to encourage regional security forces to recognize gender dimensions in issues like human trafficking and commodity smuggling by criminal networks, and the admiral said Southcom works hard to do this at every opportunity.
This year, he told the audience, “let's challenge ourselves to do better at collecting and sharing data on gender integration … so we know how far we've come and how far we still need to go, how are we measuring progress [and] what are the meaningful collectible numbers that demonstrate real change.”
Two meaningful characteristics are competence and character, but these are hard to measure, Tidd said.
“Ideally a discussion on data should include ideas for developing a better way to measure performance and applying objective standards for entry and qualifications into our security teams,” he added, noting that a conversation about standards must go beyond simplistic measures of strength and endurance.
Those attributes are important, the admiral said, but a challenge also is to capture more comprehensive measurements of intellectual, professional and character qualities that go beyond simplistic measures of strength and endurance.
Tidd said it’s up to military leaders to ensure that all forces have everything they need to succeed and win -- the right equipment, the right training and the right mix of skills and experience.
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