Women’s Initiative Team chapter debuts at 432nd Wing

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ariel O’Shea
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The Women’s Initiative Team (WIT), an official Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group (DAFBAWG), had the first meeting of its newly established 432nd Wing chapter here Oct. 26, 2022.

The meeting was the first of its kind at the base, and marks a significant step forward in getting the needs of female service members addressed on a local level.

The WIT is one of seven teams under DAFBAWG, aligned under the Secretary of the Air Force’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion (SAF/ODI). It is composed of volunteers dedicated to identifying and eliminating barriers to women’s service in the Department of the Air Force and Department of Defense while building a community of leadership and a network of allies and support agencies.

The idea to bring the WIT to Creech was born when U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Amanda, former 15th Technical Squadron Operation Superintendent, attended the 2022 Sword Athena Fitment Event at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The female fitment event provides an opportunity for Airmen to influence the design of uniforms for women.

Seeing how raising issues and addressing potential barriers could result in policy change at a wider Air Force level inspired Amanda to gather that sort of data and initiate changes at Creech AFB, her current duty station.

“They took all this data to start looking into how they’re going to create better uniform and equipment pieces for female aviators in the Air Force,” said Amanda. “It was very, very impactful to see the senior leaders taking the things that women needed and putting it into action.”

Upon her return, she enlisted the help of her longtime friend and colleague Master Sgt. Megan R., 22nd Attack Squadron Mission Support superintendent. Together, they formed the WIT’s governing body with Megan R. as team lead and Amanda as what would become one of three deputy team leads.

The rest of the council members include 1st Lt. Kristen, Master Sgt. Angela, SMSgt Joseph, Lt. Col. Charlotte, Tech. Sgt. Gina and Tech. Sgt. Megan A. They all come from a variety of career fields, backgrounds and ranks, however, their passion to create an environment in which military members can be proud to serve, regardless of gender, is the same.

“This is to be an advocate for the member, and getting them to the resources that they need,” said Megan R. “It's men and women. So I don't care what your gender is, I don't care what your AFSC is, I don't care about any kind of qualifying factor for literally anybody. Anyone and everyone is welcome to be a part of it.”

It is a sentiment that the Air Force at large wants to cultivate as well. To date, Air Force Instruction 36-2903 addressing Dress and Appearance has been changed to address uniform issues raised by a uniform board, which was advised by the WIT. Thousands of women provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team, stating that previous hair grooming standards resulted in damage to hair, migraines and hair loss in some cases.

In 2021, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services at the time said, “We remain committed to removing barriers to service. In an all-volunteer force, we want fully qualified volunteers who are representative of the nation to see us as a great opportunity to maximize their talent and serve.”

Feedback from members is a vital part of the WIT’s operation, which can come from a variety of sources, including dependents. With dependents’ access to military-provided health care, any barriers to receiving service from a medical clinic affects them.

“Some of the ways that we've gathered information is taking testimonials from people, whether that be about their health care or their childcare or other issues that they've faced, and we use this to identify certain trends that we've seen and find where barriers actually are,” said Megan R.

Some items that are brought to the WIT’s attention are already outlined in the Air Force Instruction, and it is also their job to inform a unit what its obligations are to members.

“One of the things that we're doing is educating, making sure people know the guidance that is out there and then working with people who are out of compliance, and we will work directly with unit’s first sergeant to say, ‘Okay, let's help you get in compliance,’” said Amanda.

Moving forward, the 432nd Wing WIT chapter will hold two different bi-monthly events: installation meetings and governing body meetings. The former will go through top level and senior leader intervention requirements, breakdowns for ways forward and general team structure discussions. The latter is for guest speakers, and community feedback.

Anyone interested in attending a WIT installation meeting should standby and wait for a basewide announcement from the administrative chair.