During the four-week long military Strategic Leaders International Course (SLIC) offered by the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School in Mississippi, which operates under U.S. Special Operations Command, military leaders learned how to advance strategic objectives while recognizing the diverse roles women play in security and defense.
The Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) class was held on June 25, 2021. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Duilia Turner, chief of the WPS Program at U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), taught the course and moderated a panel of experts including Dr. Catherine Lantigua, general advisor from the U.S. Office of Defense Coordination in Mexico; Colonel Iván Macías, Colombian Army liaison officer at SOUTHCOM; and Dr. Fabiana Perera, assistant professor at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington D.C.
Dr. Lantigua spoke about “Operationalization of WPS in the maritime domain” and broadening the focus of leadership on gender inclusion. “If we wish to be realistic concerning the problems of an integral course, we must include 50 percent of the population,” she said. The participation of women in maritime operations needs to be reviewed, she said, adding that it is necessary to implement the participation of women in all aspects. Dr. Lantigua emphasized that “peace and security is more than a theme among women; it is a human rights issue.”
Col. Macias spoke about the advancements made by women in the Colombian military since 1976, when women were integrated into the Colombian Military Forces. Col. Macias noted that in 2013, the first female general was named, adding that the role of women in the military is a priority for Colombia. He also spoke about the importance of not restricting security and defense women service members to administrative roles only.
Dr. Perera noted the lack of data when it comes to women’s participation in society. “Instead of assessments on the role of men, which usually is the primary focus, women should be included, as well as children,” she said.
Students from Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago took part in the discussion panel and asked for suggestions on how to break through institutional barriers to include women.
Providing more opportunities for women, evaluating their role in making missions successful, while shifting cultural attitudes, were among the strategies to increase their participation.
“We offer this unique atmosphere for senior military leaders and government officials from around the world to address complex global challenges,” said Robert Gusentine, SLIC course director, and retired U.S. Navy SEAL captain. “Understanding and designing for complexity requires a diversity of experience, perspectives, and world views; therefore, it is imperative we continue to increase the involvement of female officers and officials in our class.”
“The process is not about being equitable simply because it is morally the right thing to do,” he said. “This is about mission readiness and partner nation women leaders who are skilled, collaborative, and trusted. [These aspects] are mission critical and the U.S. needs to be active in their professional development. We need to readily prepare them for promotion, and we need to eagerly invest in their future. The WPS strategy calls on us to do so, and the Strategic Leaders International Course is well designed to fulfill this role,” he concluded.