SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
As retreat sounded at 4:30 p.m. to signal the end of the work day, more than 250 female Airmen filed into the Community Activity Center for the first ever 82nd Training Wing Female Airmen Forum.
Five NCO’s and the base’s director of Military Equal Opportunity stood at the head of the auditorium ready to lead an honest conversation about being a female in a male dominated career.
“Sixteen years ago when I enlisted, I wish I had this panel to ask real questions about hair, tattoos, being a mom, being a lesbian, being black, white, or brown,” said a member of the panel. “This is the real Air Force and we have to talk about it.”
The discussion began to flow as Airmen in the room jumped at the opportunity to talk about their thoughts and experiences.
A young Airman stood up to explain her confusion with men who don’t believe that women have a place in the military. She asked the panel for ways to address this belief.
“Tell them that 1967 called and they want their opinions back,” said a panel member who was visibly appalled at the notion.
The panel members went on to explain that the idea of women being unfit to serve is no longer acceptable within our ranks. Unfortunately, they noted, there are still naysayers out there.
“Let your work do the talking,” said another panel member. “Personal traits do not define you. Let the quality of your work define you.”
The discussion grew more diverse as the forum continued. Questions about sexuality, being a single mom, and showing emotion in the work place were hashed out in a non-attribution environment.
One panel member brought to light that many times the reports that land on her desk involve females demeaning other females, an issue that is often overlooked.
“I am tired of seeing females tearing down other females, we’re supposed to be in this together,” she said. “Yes, you’re a minority, but that isn’t the only thing holding you back when you don’t support each other.”
Regardless of the issue being discussed, the underlying message behind each response was to always maintain professionalism, do good work, and find a healthy work-life balance.
The solutions offered by the seasoned panel were not unheard of or abstract. In fact, their message is similar to the core values that every Airmen swears to adhere to.
“It’s simple really, it’s about treating other people with dignity and respect while being yourself,” said another panel member during her finishing remarks.
The Female Airmen Forum was started by Tech Sgt. Xavier Taggart who is currently assigned to the 363rd Training Squadron. After positive results within the squadron, the forum was implemented at the wing level and is scheduled to reoccur on a quarterly basis.