The Department of Defense announced today the selection of a new chairperson and three 2006 appointees to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).

Dr. Mary Nelson of Lafayette, Colo., is the new chairperson, and the three new appointees are: Diana Destine Denman of San Antonio and Denise W. Balzano and Margaret M. White, both of McLean, Va.

Previously Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the selection of the fiscal 2003 appointees to the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). The incoming members were retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter of Brownsburg, Ind., as the chair; Catherine Aspy of Keizer, Ore.; Lynda Davis of Great Falls, Va.; J.P. Duniphan of Rapid City, S.D.; Bonnie Fuller Ford of Albuquerque, N.M.; Julie Hamre of Bethesda, Md.; Constance Horner of Washington, D.C.; Susan Patane of Loma Linda, Calif.; retired Army Reserve Col. Darryl Ladd Pattillo of Austin, Texas; Margaret Robson of Washington, D.C.; Virginia Rowell of Vienna, Va.; retired Air Force Reserve Col. Vance Shaw of McLean, Va.; and Rosalie Silberman of Washington, D.C.

DACOWITS is comprised of 13 civilian members from throughout the United States, selected on the basis of their experience in the military, as a member of a military family or experience working with women's or family-related workforce issues.

The committee provides an invaluable service to the department as an independent body of "citizen" advisors. The focus of their support will be targeted to the needs of the Department of Defense and senior service leaders. DACOWITS is a valuable asset to evaluate and validate present and future personnel and readiness policies within the Department that may impact both men and women. Additionally, through installation visits and focus groups, issues may be raised that should also be brought to the attention of the installation commander and/or service leadership.

The committee does not make policy or act as the voice for the department, but it will provide an important conduit to directly express the concerns of servicemembers to the senior leadership. The committee has an important role in supporting today's military; within that role, it will provide valuable advice and recommendations.

More from yours truly:

It has been said that the DACOWITS committee has not been effective. Lacking first hand information pundits rant with rhetoric. Yet many examples exist that are not being offered. Here are few for the record.

In the mid 1950's the Long Island WAF Recruiting Sergeant was denied admission to a high school career day program even though the male recruiters were participating. The school didn't think the women would be interested. The recruiter called a member of DACOWITS who was from that area and asked for her advice. The next day the school invited the WAF recruiter to career day and more female students turned out for her program than they did for the men. A simple phone call from an interested DACOWITS member resolved the situation. (And how do I know? I was that WAF Recruiter.)

In the late 1960's the WAF Squadron Commander at McGuire AFB attempted to get birth control pills through the dispensary for the women in her squadron who chose to use them. The men were already being issued condums by the same dispensary. The dispensary commander refused saying that his religion would not let him do such a thing - he was catholic. The women's commander argued, pleaded and then politely said that she would take it higher - to this the medical officer countered with the fact that if the WAF commander went to the general - duty excuses for the women would be slow in coming and other veiled threats of lesser treatment. Not wanting to jeopardize her women the commander backed off and promised not to go to the general. Later that month an area DACOWITS member called and asked if she could informally visit the WAF squadron - no fan fare just a simple day with the women in the squadron. She visited the dining hall, ate lunch there with the young airmen and chatted with several of them on the job and in the barracks as well. A few of them told her of their commanders attempts to get them birth control methods. At the end of her visit protocol dictated an exit meeting with the comanding general. Three days later the base dispensary was instructed to cooperate fully with any request that the WAF Commander made for the welfare of the women in her squadron at no detriment to the women. A simple request, made by a DACOWITS member solved the problem. (And how do I know? I was that WAF Commander.)

Learn more about the accomplishments of this comittee by visiting their web site at DACOWITS

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