SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. –
The 25th Attack Group hosted a Women in Leadership Symposium at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 9-10, 2020.
The symposium offered a safe place to raise understanding and work at removing implicit and systemic barriers that are present in today’s Air Force, and featured a series of strong female leaders, from inside-and-outside of the unit. They covered pressing topics, including: diversity and inclusion, finding your voice, leadership in action, and more.
Several of those female leaders were featured on an enlisted panel, including, Chief Master Sgt. Michelle Browning, 432nd WG/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing command chief, and Chief Master Sgt. Tracie Timmerman, command chief for the Thomas N. Barnes Center of Enlisted Education at Maxwell Air Force Base, Gunter Annex, Alabama.
The panel welcomed audience members to ask questions openly, and garnered discussion ranging from getting people to care about diversity and inclusion, to encouraging mental health services for Airmen, to overcoming obstacles of bias in their professional and personal lives.
“What I've tried to do my entire career is treat people like they're my family,” Browning said. “My job is to take care of human beings, regardless of job, sex, or color.”
The panel not only discussed care for Airmen and wingmen, but also self-care.
Timmerman shared her story of overcoming breast cancer, and admitted to ignoring signs of being ill. While she survived and thrived in the end, Timmerman explained how she was of a lucky few; if she had set boundaries, and maintained a healthier work-life balance, it would have helped her earlier.
“We’re all sisters and brothers in the military, and we have to take care of each other,” Timmerman said. “We have to have compassion for each other.”
The large group of leaders continued to be vulnerable, openly sharing their successes and failures to connect with the audience, and showing leaders of all ranks it’s alright to be imperfect, and it’s important to share lessons-learned.
Many of the speakers elaborated on the importance of resilience as not just a hot-button trait to possess as an Airman, but a critical tool; especially when dealing with adversity, confrontation, or an unprecedented crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Resilience is a critical leadership skill so you should practice it by challenging yourself. Life is going to throw challenges your way but if you've built up your resilience in an intentional way, you don't have to do it under fire.” said Maj. Kaitlin, 25th ATKG senior intelligence officer. "When real crises occur in life, you usually already have the tools necessary to solve your problem, but you may need to get creative in how you use them."
She explained how her mother, a nurse, could easily identify the difference between a real crisis and self-induced panic. In doing this, she set an example for her children to do the same. Kaitlin explained that skills, or tools, such as these are gained steadily throughout life.
“Sometimes leading in crisis or through innovation is just a matter of repurposing the tools that you do have, to focus on a singular specific goal,” she continued. “Bottom line, don't panic because you've already got this!"
Although the majority of speakers were women, Col. Timothy Monroe, 25th ATKG commander, provided opening and closing remarks for the event. He encouraged all attendees to look for themselves in every presenter’s story, and to recognize how boundaries continue to be broken, and history continues to be made.
“We take time deliberately out of our schedules to do activities like this to change perspective, to offer context to the conversation, and to empower people with information,” Monroe said.
The symposium gathered Airmen in-person, and via virtual streams, allowing personnel of all ranks, genders, backgrounds and positions to share their experiences and learn from one another.
“I hope all of our speakers who have courageously stood on this stage the last couple of days have offered perspective to what you do as an individual, or context to what you do professionally,” Monroe said. “The last thing [I hope] is it empowered you with a vision for what you have to do to influence change.”