WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Time is running out to register for the 25th Annual Joint Women's Leadership Symposium (JWLS), hosted by the Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA) at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., March 5-6.
"United in Service: Our Global Impact," is the theme for this year's two-day event that will spotlight the global impact of women military leaders. This year's event is on target to be the largest symposium to date.
"Navy interest has been significant this year, but we want to make sure anyone who hasn't registered yet knows they can still attend the conference," said Lt. Maura Betts, one of the members of the Navy planning committee for the symposium. "It's going to be a great opportunity for everyone to network with leadership and possibly find a mentor or someone to mentor."
For the past 25 years, the symposium has been an invaluable tool for women in the military, providing women in all five branches of service opportunities for networking, professional growth and leadership development.
Last year's symposium set the stage for a special mentoring connection for three individuals.
Lt. Cmdr. Christine Cochran, Navy Cyber Forces' Force diversity officer, attended the JWLS as a way to enhance her professional development and make more contacts within the sea services community. During one of the Navy breakout sessions, Cochran shared her experience in earning her commission through the Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP) in 1999.
"When I went through ECP, I had nobody helping me," said Cochran. "It was a painful process, so I knew after I got selected, and once I got commissioned that if I could help someone, I would."
It was during this Navy breakout session that a young Sailor, Aerographer's Mate 2nd Class Quinn Challinor, in the process of submitting a package for STA-21, asked Cochran for advice. Overhearing that conversation, Aerographer's Mate 1st Class (AW/SW) Sarah E. Beemiller also approached Cochran for assistance with her package. Cochran agreed to mentor both women with their applications.
For Beemiller, the application ultimately became more than a potential commission. Denied through PTS, Beemiller was preparing to leave the Navy. The STA-21 application was a chance to keep her Navy career.
Beemiller was attending her farewell luncheon when the results for the STA-21 board were released.
"She was at her luncheon, walking out the door to turn her badge in," said Cochran. "She had already taken her house hunting and job hunting leave and came back, waiting on these results. She was going to be on terminal leave that day."
When the results were released, Beemiller and Challinor both were on the STA-21 selection list.
"Lt. Cmdr. Cochran's direct leadership and guidance inevitably led to my selection this year," said Beemiller. "There aren't enough words to express how grateful I am that our paths crossed at this amazing conference."
"I was ecstatic when she made it. I knew that her luncheon was coming up, and I didn't know when the results would come out. I was really rooting for her," said Cochran.
The results didn't just change the lives of the two selected. After 23 years in the Navy, Cochran was weighing the decision to retire or stay in for one last tour.
"I was very close to a decision to retire myself," said Cochran. "I really think she helped me make the decision to do one last tour myself, because it was so motivating for me to see that this worked for her."
Cochran looks forward to returning to the Joint Women's Leadership Symposium this year, meeting more Sailors and encouraging more officers to mentor junior Sailors.
"It's our job and we have to take the time as leaders to do this. You have to put in the time to keep good people in, and we are failing our Sailors if we're not doing that work," said Cochran.
Beemiller will have to wait until next year to connect with her mentor at the symposium - she recently departed for her STA-21 training. "I would not still be in the Navy if I hadn't been selected and it would not have happened if it were not for the SSLA Joint Women's Leadership Symposium," said Beemiller.
Established in 1978, SSLA is the only non-profit organization in the United States dedicated to providing professional development through networking, education, and mentorship of women from the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Interested persons are invited to register online at www.sealeader.org/leadership-symposium-summary.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Office of Diversity and Inclusion, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp-diversity/.