Military News

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Strengthening Our Path: A Call to the Future

by 2nd Lt Veronica Perez
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

9/29/2015 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Sitting in a room filled with over 70 female Airmen is invigorating, inspiring and empowering. The inaugural 20th Air Force Women's Leadership Symposium wrapped up Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. The symposium brought female Airmen (ranks E4 through E5 and O1through O3) within 20th Air Force together for professional development through networking and mentorship.

I was surrounded by single mothers who work 12-hour shifts and wives married to military members stationed across the country. I exchanged conversations with daughters of adoption, divorcees, cancer survivors, life-long civil servants, world-record breakers and entrepreneurs. I listened to a doctor's life of service, a pilot's view on leadership and an author dedicated to telling the story of heroes unheard. I learned of their passion to lead, their motivation to help others and their unwavering will to serve in spite of struggle.

During her opening remarks Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, the Director of Washington Headquarters Services, Patricia Young, challenged us to spread the ideas discussed here among our peers, our leadership and our Air Force.

"Coming back to the field and meeting truly the future leaders of the Air Force, is incredibly insightful and invigorating. There is so much energy here, and it's exciting for me," Young said. "For this event to be successful, participants have to take what they've learned and share it with others. I really want the participants to challenge themselves and I'm excited for them to have this opportunity."

Throughout the day, speakers discussed their experiences, painting pictures of success, failure and personal growth while we listened in awe of their transparency and genuine honesty.

"I think this event is very enlightening because I learned a lot of perspectives I never really considered," said 2nd Lt. Eunice Park, 90th Missile Wing intelligence officer. "There are people in the Air Force who really care and are really considerate of what we're doing, and I just never realized how we have so many role models, especially for women."

Almost all of the Airmen I spoke with mentioned similar leadership themes discussed by the speakers, such as seizing opportunities, being authentic, gaining trust and continuously trying to be better in everything we do.

"We got to hear a lot of different leadership perspectives, enlisted and officer, so we got to see what they have done in their careers and then take what works for us and build from that," said Staff Sgt. Amanda Buck 341st MW command post team member.

Some topics included balancing family and career, female standards and policies, commander and chief perspectives, the power of vulnerability and the desire to serve.

Chief Master Sgt. Felica Noil, 91st MW command chief master sergeant, entertained us as she shared her journey as a security forces Airmen and the lessons she learned during her 29 and a half years of service.

"Hopefully, at the very end of this journey, I will have helped someone not have to endure what I went through, to help them get through it, and to encourage them to stand up for the right to be an advocate, to be a voice and to make a difference," Noil said. "What I want to challenge you all to know is that everything you endure is not just for you."

There was an undeniable feeling of excitement in the room as we interacted with each other and the seeds of mentorship grew roots.

"It's good having a bunch of different women from different backgrounds coming and sharing their perspective on leadership and women in the Air Force," said Capt Melissa Crenshaw, 341st MW code controller. "It's been good for me having mentors, most are all male, but now that I have other female mentors [and] I'm hoping to share [what I've learned] here."

Col. Kristin Goodwin, 2nd Bomb Wing commander, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, spoke about leading with a purpose and expressed how we can create change in the future.

"We are Airmen," she said. "And we need to go out there and lead with courage, we need to inspire, we need to set the standard and we need to be proud of our units and our Air Force. This symposium is not just about women, it's about men and women, Airmen being better as a force and collectively moving forward and rising to a higher standard of excellence in everything we do."

Throughout the three days we were encouraged, motivated and challenged to create our own path as leaders in the United States Air Force in order to spread diversity of thought and character.

Major General Jack Weinstein, 20th Air Force and Task Force 214 commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Wells, 20th Air Force and Task Force 214 command chief master sergeant, addressed these ideas head on.

"What we're hoping for this leadership symposium is that you all remember why you came in, maybe find some other reasons for staying in, grow, broaden, learn and take that back to your units because we need people like you, and we need people who aren't like you to be leaders in our Air Force," said Wells.

Weinstein added, "At any level in the United States Air Force, you can be a leader. Leadership is not dictated by the amount of stripes you have on your sleeve or the metal on your shoulders.. Who you are and what you do for your Airmen is leadership."

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