NEW YORK (NNS) -- In honor of Fleet Week New York (FWNY), the New York University's Wasserman Center for Career Development hosted a panel discussion with active duty females from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, May 25.
Empowering women through networking events was the theme of the two-hour discussion on an "Insider's View of Women in the Military" featuring females from a variety of services, ranks, rates and backgrounds who discussed why they joined the military to the benefits of military service.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Mary Lynch Westmoreland, who serves as the national chairwoman for the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, spearheaded the discussion to bring awareness to the experiences of military service and opportunities available to men and women.
Navy Chief Warrant Officer 2 Deshonia Barnes, assigned to Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), discussed what surprised her the most upon entering the Navy more than 22 years ago.
"The amount of opportunities that are available," said Barnes who spoke to the audience of more than 100 attendees.
In 2016, New York University's Wasserman Center for Career Development hosted a women's initiative and networking event during Fleet Week New York to connect service members from the sea services with New Yorkers.
U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Megan Schrum, current operations officer for Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2d Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, discussed her reasoning for entering the Marine Corps.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the people I have served with," said Schrum who added that the amount of responsibility placed on young Marines has made her strive to be the best at her military profession. "I also joined the Marine Corps because it had the highest PT standards."
Schrum also added that she opted to join the military because of the freedoms she enjoyed encouraged her to serve to give back to the nation that provided her so much.
As the women discussed the variety of educational benefits and career opportunities available, the panelists discussed the unique perspective females bring to the military.
"Sometimes women will provide a different perspective and will come up with different solutions by using different methods," said Lt. j.g. Alexandra Stinner, safety manager at Coast Guard Sector New York.
Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Kristi Holecheck, CLR-25 Headquarters Company, decided early on to follow her father's footsteps of service.
"I never thought I would be in the military. My father served 33 years in the Army," said Holecheck. "Bringing your mentorship, guidance all in one to guide the Marines, I really appreciate to fill that role."
For many of the women serving on the panel, they discussed the family unit and cohesiveness that comes with service that has contributed to their reasoning in making the military a long-term career choice.
"The unity of family, your unit becomes your family," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Janet Petrak, a yeoman who serves with the Coast Guard Sector New York, discussed her experiences over the past eight years of service in the Coast Guard and the many friendships she has maintained since answering the call to serve.
Guests who attended the NYU Women's Initiative event also asked the panelists gender-related experiences during their years of service.
"Your gender doesn't inhibit your capability," said Schrum.
Brig. Gen. Lori E. Reynolds, commanding general of Marine Forces Cyberspace Command, also attended the Women's Initiative event and shared with the audience the pride she has serving alongside dedicated men and women.
"I hope you take away from tonight is that with less than one percent of our nation serves in uniform, we have the opportunity to choose the very best quality in every service," said Reynolds, who has served in the Marine Corps for 31 years. "These are very smart and dedicated, top quality people and the secret is that is why we serve because we serve with the best America has to offer."
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jasmin Lamanna, also assigned to USS Kearsarge, echoed similar sentiments stated in the discussion. "It is an honor to be here."
FWNY, now in its 29th year, is the city's time-honored celebration of the sea services. It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.
For up-to-date information on all FWNY events, visit the official FWNY website at www.fleetweeknewyork.com, "Like" FleetWeekNewYork on Facebook, or "Follow" @FleetWeekNYC on Twitter.
Join the conversation on social media by using #FleetWeekNYC.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Mid Atlantic, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrma/.