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Army mentoring volunteers sought

Program helps support female soldiers

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POSTED: October 24, 2013 10:30 a.m.

Fort Stewart is reaching out to the civilian community, asking for female volunteers to serve as mentors to young female soldiers.
Col. Dianne D. Pannes spoke Thursday afternoon to the Hinesville City Council, asking members to support a new Fort Stewart initiative called Female to Female, or F2F. During her slide presentation, she noted that female soldiers comprise only 10 percent of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield populations; however, given several newly opened positions, she said the number of female soldiers in previously male-only units will increase.
Pannes said Army-wide, 95 percent of sex-crime victims are female soldiers. She then stunned the council and those attending the biweekly meeting with statistics. Sexual assaults increased across the Army by 66 percent from 2006 to 2012, she said, and 30-44 percent of active-duty women report incidences of intimate-partner violence during their lifetime, with 22 percent saying such violence occurred while they were in the service.
Pannes said the divorce rate among female soldiers is much higher than male soldiers — 6.6 percent versus 1.6 percent. She added that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men and that even though women are less likely to complete a suicide attempt, they’re 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide.
On hearing these figures, the council was silent.
“What I hear you saying is you’re looking for some wives and mothers to mentor young female soldiers,” City Manager Billy Edwards said. “Is that correct?”
“Yes, we are asking the city to take part in Stewart-Hunter’s Female 2 Female program by getting off-post sources to provide female mentors who would be willing to mentor younger female soldiers,” Pannes said. “‘Mentors’ can be anyone — civilian, military, veterans, spouses, etc. You just never know who will connect, so we’re throwing the widest net possible and striving for a win-win all around.”
Pannes said the purpose of the Female 2 Female program is to provide female soldiers the opportunity to expand their friendships and mentor bases while “improving their resiliency, enhancing knowledge and reducing isolation. The end result of the program is to reduce sexual assault and risky behavior.”
She said Stewart-Hunter’s program is modeled after the Army’s F2F Sponsorship program at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy. Some of the military community’s resources taking part in the program include the Family Advocacy Program; Army Community Services; Family and Morale, Welfare; and Recreation and Preventive Medicine. Edwards suggested civic groups, churches and veterans organizations might be good sources for providing mentors.
“We decided to not create a formal program where we’d be matching soldiers with specific mentors,” explained Melissa Reams, health-promotion research analyst with Fort Stewart’s Public Health Command. “Our hope is that, through regular exposure to strong off-post community leaders, some of our soldiers will find someone who truly inspires her. Hopefully, these informal relationships will encourage soldiers to become more invested in the larger community through volunteerism and attendance in community events.”
Pannes said the kickoff for Female 2 Female will be Jan. 10, 2014, with 2,500 (Stewart-Hunter) female soldiers and many national female leaders supporting it, including several female lieutenant generals, Savannah Mayor Edna Branch Jackson, Pembroke Mayor Mary Warnell and others. She said after Jan. 10, small groups and units will be reaching out to the community for support with events.
“(Our) rationale for involving (the civilian) community is because ‘evidence shows that access to community, supportive relationships and health education lower high-risk behavior,’” she said. “We are looking forward to working with the Hinesville community.”
Anyone interested in volunteering can call Pannes at 767-8137 or email dianne.d.pannes.mil@mail.mil.

 

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