More than 300 women gathered from across the country for an educational and fun-filled weekend from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 in Provo, Utah, for the 4th annual The Well Armed Woman (TWAW) Leader Conference.
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Each year TWAW Leaders learn from some of the industry’s best instructors and representatives. In addition to the 3-day conference, participants are offered optional training opportunities before and after the main event. This year’s lineup included the following courses: NRA Pistol Instructor, Personal Protection in the Home Instructor, The Well Armed Woman Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, Ultimate Training Munitions Instructor and TASER Civilian Trainer.
My journey to Provo brought me to Salt Lake City first, where I hopped on the Trax train and then transferred over to the FrontRunner train. The train system is modern, with Wi-Fi and power outlets available for passengers. I didn’t spend time looking at my computer or phone screen, because the scenic ride captured my attention instead. From the quaint streams flowing next to the railroad tracks, to the snow-peaked mountains surrounding me in every direction, Utah captured my attention fully. I caught the hotel shuttle after arriving at Provo Central Station, which transported me to my destination quickly.
The Thursday before the conference is known as Range Day. Each course offers a limited number of spots available, which fill up faster than Usain Bolt can sprint 100 meters. Despite getting on the bus at 5:30 in the morning, everyone seemed happy to be there and I heard no complaints. Four busloads of leaders rode up the mountain to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Thistle Firing Range in Spanish Fork for a day of training with rifles, pistols and shotguns. Representatives from Walther, Ruger, Glock, LWRC International, United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM), Tactical Walls and Blaser attended; Action Targets donated targets and Freedom Munitions and Fiocchi sent ammo. Because the training opportunities varied so much, most of the women expressed that they tried something that they had never done before, and chatted non-stop about the excitement of the day.
After returning from the range, the day wrapped up with an outdoor event on the terrace of the Provo Convention Center with the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and concert by country music artist, Morgan Mills. Not only does Morgan have an amazing voice, she also holds an NRA certification as a pistol instructor and knows how to put shots downrange on target.
Friday morning’s breakfast inside the Provo Marriott Hotel & Convention Center signaled the start of the official conference, and fueled participants for a day packed with seminars which included the following: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman – Sheepdog Seminars, Kimberly Corban – Rape survivor and public speaker, Gabby Franco – Competition shooter for Remington and workshop presenter and Antonia Okafor – Founder of EmPOWERed Campus Carry Movement. Industry representatives from USCCA, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Independence Training, LWRC International and UTM also attended.
The evening banquet, sponsored by Ruger, kicked off with a fashion show by Girls With Guns Clothing, that had the ladies cheering for their favorite outfits, followed by keynote speaker, Susan LaPierre, co-chair of the National Rifle Association’s Women’s Leadership Forum. Susan also surprised all of us by bringing her husband, Executive Vice President of the NRA Wayne LaPierre, then proceeded to throw in one more surprise, author and radio talk-show host Dana Loesch. The evening wrapped up with plenty of giveaways and award presentations.
Saturday included another day full of seminars, such as Individual First Aid & Dirt Medicine, The Legal Use of Force, Reaching Young Women and Minorities and Home Defense with a Carbine, and concluded with the evening banquet, sponsored by USCCA. Cam Edwards, host of NRA News Cam & Co., gave the keynote address, followed by speakers Gabby Franco and Antonia Okafor. Some of the awards presented during the evening included “The Best Purple Outfit,” which went to Katie Cook; “Male Instructor of the Year,” to Glen Stilson of Independence Training; and “Chapter Leader of the Year,” awarded to Rhonda Allen of the Northeastern North Carolina Chapter.
As the conference wrapped up on Sunday afternoon, Carrie Lightfoot gave an inspiring send-off message about leading confidently in an insecure world. She explained that we should follow the “5 D’s”: Decide to live confidently; define who we are and what we’re for; devote our time and ourselves; dare to believe in ourselves and move toward confidence; and finally, develop confidence. She said that when we have confidence, it helps insulate us from the effects of our insecure world.
Lastly, Carrie announced the location of the 2018 Conference – Branson, Missouri! Since Branson is practically in my backyard, I’m especially looking forward to next year. From the number of chapter leaders who have already booked hotel rooms for next year, I’d say I’m not the only one excited about the 5th Annual TWAW Conference.
Freelance writer Stacy Bright holds instructor certifications from the NRA in Pistol & Rifle, as well as being an Range Safety Officer and Refuse to be a Victim instructor. In addition to her NRA credentials, she also is a Missouri CCW instructor and teaches various other home and personal defense courses. “In a field dominated by men, I feel I bring a unique perspective to firearms and training, especially to women. I'm passionate about educating, empowering and developing confidence in those I train. In November of 2014, I started the Southwest Missouri chapter of The Well Armed Woman,” said Stacy. Stacy lives in southwest Missouri, and has been married for 20 years. Visit TWAW Facebook page: The Well Armed Woman-Springfield, MO Chapter. View all posts by Stacy Bright