By Lt. Philip K. Stevens, Office of the Force Judge Advocate, Command Naval Forces Japan
Lt. Cmdr. Brandi Orton, Deputy Force Judge Advocate, Commander, Naval Forces Japan/Navy Region Japan attended a Bilateral Women’s luncheon hosted by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to further encourage networking, mentorship, and recognition of accomplishments among female Sailors serving in the JMSDF and U.S. Navy in Yokosuka, Japan, on October 6, 2017.
The Bilateral Women’s Luncheon drew over 100 attendees and included welcome remarks from both Command Master Chief Steven Snyder, Commander, Naval Forces Japan/Navy Region Japan and Command Master Chief Shinichi Katsuki, JMSDF Yokosuka District. Both encouraged female Sailors to take advantage of the opportunity to come together to discuss like challenges and successes. Katsuki cited the fact that there are only 2400 females serving in JMSDF; they hope to increase that number to 4100 in the future.
“This was a very meaningful opportunity,” said Orton. “I hope we can include more female judge advocates and legalmen for next year’s event. The event strengthened our connection and inspired us. Events such as this truly bridge gaps.”
Each service provided a female captain to speak about the challenges and successes they encountered in their careers. The JMSDF speaker was Capt. Chizuko Takechi, Fleet Surgeon Self Defense Fleet. She gave an overview of her career, discussed the challenges she encountered in being one of very few female Sailors in her field. The U.S. provided Capt. Madelene Means, from 7th Fleet. She provided an overview of her career and discussed the values she was raised with (i.e. hard work, honesty) and how she applied them to achieve success in the military. Both speeches were well received by the guests.
After the guest speakers, attendees were served lunch and encouraged to converse at their tables. Each table had 8-10 Sailors split about evenly between the two countries. Most tables had a U.S. or Japanese Sailor that also served as the translator.
“My particular table did not have a translator, so I had to utilize a translation app to communicate,” said Orton. “Despite the communication challenges, we still were able to discuss what each service viewed as the greatest obstacle/challenge to serving (most stated balancing marriage/motherhood), greatest accomplishment (pride in serving/solid pay check), perceptions among male counterparts (some accepted females, others did not view them as equals), and goals (security/gaining skills/success). At the end, I walked away with an appreciation that the challenges I face, are the same if not fewer, than those of my female Japanese counterparts.”