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NEWS | April 2, 2019

Diversity and inclusion: keys to shifting a culture

By Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Throughout U.S. military history, women have contributed to America’s combat missions from their veiled roles in the Revolutionary War to today’s dynamic roles with frontline troops. The month of March is nationally recognized as Women’s History Month to honor the women who have served their country in the face of adversity and fought to better the lives of future female service members.

This year’s theme, Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence, was celebrated with interactive tours, lectures and a discussion panel at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

A group of JBLE members were given the opportunity to tour the NASA Langley Research Center and observe researchers working at the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, the Integrated Structural Assembly for Advanced Composites robotic platform, the landing and impact research facility and the inflatable space structures. 

“Some of the key briefers were women, so it validated that we can fulfill those science, technology, engineering and math roles,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Monique Wright, 633rd Communications Squadron section chief client services support. “These intelligent women are able to be successful in these fields, and it was impactful for us to actually gain insight and understand their roles.”

As the designated Women’s History Month action officer, Wright also assembled a discussion panel featuring Col. Erin Cluff, 633rd Mission Support Group commander, Col. Iris Reedom, 633rd Inpatient Squadron commander, Chief Master Sgt. Shane Wagner, 633rd Air Base Wing command chief, and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alisha Hamel, U.S. Army Transportation Museum director, at Quesada Hall on Langley Air Force Base. 

Panelists addressed the importance of diminishing real or perceived barriers that prohibit career or personal progress through diversity and inclusion. 

“I think there is a notion that everything involving Women’s History Month is for women, and I’m trying to change that perspective,” Wright said. “I wanted the panel to convey that there is progress and I think having a male panelist brought a new perspective for us. It also showed that we really do want to focus on inclusivity for everyone.”

Featured panelist Hamel spoke of the value female service members bear when it comes to influencing and inspiring children in our local communities. 

“When units go out into the community and a young girl sees a woman who is part of that unit, I think it can be a powerful image for them,” Hamel said. “It shows them that the military is an option for them. I [enlisted] during a generation where women were still the secretaries and the nurse, but I can see with this generation we are shifting to where it makes no difference that your boss may be a female.” 

The observance month came to a close with “Leading a Legacy,” featuring retired Lt. Col. Dr. Françoise B. Bonnell, U.S. Army Women’s Museum director. The event highlighted women’s permanent presence after World War II, rescinding gender-specific policies and the elimination of racial segregation and women’s inequality. 

“I think everyone has a good story and if you’re able to tell your story then it reminds other people that they’re not alone,” Hamel said. “They can see that it happened to others and learn how they have overcome and perhaps apply it to themselves so that women have better roles in today’s [military]. If we learn from what happened in the past, then we can be better with who we are today.”