FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky -- A two-day, women's only program conducted here this week is looking to guide female soldiers through their transition to civilian life, despite a militarywide effort to no longer differentiate between men and women in the services.
The event, sponsored by Operation Reinvent, was held on Fort Campbell and supported by the post's transition assistance program. The event was not conducted in lieu of the regular eight days of transition classes soldiers must attend before leaving the military, Fort Campbell officials said. About 40 female soldiers attended the event.
"The thing that some people question is 'OK, the Army is making this big to-do about these women going through Ranger School, and then on the other end you're doing something aimed [at women],'" said Bob Jenkins, a Fort Campbell spokesman. "Our view is that we are providing opportunities for soldiers."
Operation Reinvent, a New York City based non-profit, was founded to help female veterans acclimate to life outside the military, organizers said.
"What we are doing here is recognizing that women's needs are very different. The equality issue in the workplace is a very important one, but how you get there is a very different path in a way," said founder Julie Lewit-Nirenberg, who has worked in the publishing industry promoting women's issues since the early 1970s. "What we are doing here is actually training women and giving them the opportunity to understand what they will be moving into."
While Lewit-Nirenberg and co-founder Nancy Northrop, a beauty and health industry executive whose son is in the Navy, said they support women holding combat roles within the military, they also said they know that life outside the Army is not gender neutral.
"Appearances do matter, as we all know ... when you're getting interviewed, how you walk in the room and how you own that room is very, very important," Lewit-Nirenberg said. "The make-up might sound like 'blah blah blah,' but it's not. It's a very important opportunity for the women to become who they are and revel in it."
The two-day event includes sessions on interview skills, personality assessments and a professional image makeover. Attendees also receive new civilian workplace-appropriate wardrobe items, they said.
The unemployment rate among female 9/11-era veterans was 8.5 percent in 2014, according to U.S. government statistics -- about 1.5 percent higher than their male counterparts.
Soldiers who attended the event said that while they appreciated the women-only focus, they do not think the Army should add gender-specific sessions to its regular transition assistance classes.
"If you start breaking it down and going specific, you could be taking away from it. Because depending on what workforce you're going to, it doesn't matter," said 1st Lt. Jackie Horgan, a medical services officer who recently started the transition process. "It's more of educating us on 'this is what it's like in the civilian world compared [to the military].' "