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NEWS | Dec. 16, 2022

633d SFS Braids and Berets: Speak Up

By Airman 1st Class Mikaela Smith 633d ABW PA

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Breanna Acosta, 633d Security Forces Squadron installation entry controller, was performing Random Vehicle Inspections at the gate. It was June, 2021 and her first month of being stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

A man pulled up to the gate and, per procedures, informed him to pull over to perform an RVI. He refused and began to question her ability to do her job.

“You look young! Do you even know your job?” questioned the man.

Acosta brushed the comment off her shoulders and continued procedures.

The man continued arguing, “You’re a female. How are you supposed to do anything?”

Acosta felt demeaned. She continued being respectful and finished the RVI, but this interaction stuck with her.

“I may have been new, but I knew my job and I was confident in my ability to do it,” said Acosta. “These are the people that I’m supposed to be able to trust - if I go to combat, I know they will have my back. This may have been the first time, but it certainly wasn’t the last.”

Acosta has been at JBLE for about 18 months. According to Acosta, in the last six, this kind of interaction has happened a handful of times.

“It’s a challenge because I also have fellow female coworkers come up to me during a shift and talk about how another person said they looked 12 years old and would ask if they even know what they are doing,” explained Acosta. “We don’t say anything because we’re supposed to just own up to it and let it go, but I wanted to change that.”

After discussing amongst some of her peers, Acosta and one of her fellow Defenders, Senior Airman Tessa Spare, who has now changed duty locations, worked together to form a mental health group for women in the 633d SFS called Braids and Berets.

“I want women to have a safe space to comfortably share their perspective and experience in an environment where we can grow and foster mentorship amongst leaders and peers,” said Acosta.

Together, Acosta and Spare laid out a plan for Braids and Berets. Eventually, it was approved by leadership and they hosted their first meeting in October, 2022.

“The initiative to start Braids and Berets definitely inspired me,” said Senior Master Sgt. Giselle Janousek, 633d SFS superintendent. “Remembering back to when I was a young Airman, I didn’t have many females that I looked up to or felt comfortable enough talking to about some of the things that I experienced. Having Braids and Berets gives our young female Airmen an opportunity to feel listened to and share what they’re going through, in order to foster stronger relationships.”

Even after Spare changed duty locations, Braids and Berets is still continuing strong. The group makes it a goal to meet once a month, as long as work doesn’t conflict.

“There have been things that these young Defenders are still experiencing that I experienced early in my career,” said Master Sgt. Bailey Monishia, 633d Security Forces flight chief. “Braids and Berets is a step forward. We have to be united. We have to be real wingmen and look out for one another.”

Man or woman, all Airmen should look out for each other. According to Monishia, she has had support from many of her brothers in Security Forces that have helped her throughout her career. However, there are challenges to being a woman in Security Forces that only a woman could understand.

“Going up through the ranks, I’ve seen how our views differ and how we are treated differently,” explained Monishia. “I can shoot next to them, I can train next to them, but when it came to presenting my ideas, it would always be ‘That’s nice, but we are going to go this way’.”

According to Janousek, working in a male dominated career field, women tend to have to push harder to prove themselves.

“There is something different about a woman’s mentality as a cop,” said Janousek. “I feel like we always have to put on a hard exterior to show, on the outside, we always have to feel fine, that we can get through whatever no matter what. The result is people becoming a shell of an Airman, which is something that we don’t want.”

The 633d SFS first, and foremost, mission is to defend the base. These Airmen hold themselves to a higher standard to offer 24/7 protection around the base.

“People see us at the gate, but they don’t see the behind the scenes, like our deployment rates or the training we do regularly,” said Janousek. “We still know that there’s sexual harassment going on in the workforce and that’s not limited to Security Forces. And so, if we can sit around and talk to each other comfortably about uncomfortable situations and build our relationships with our young Airmen - people will catch wind of it and maybe it will start to spread to different units and start forming men’s group too.”

Braids and Berets has only had one group meeting so far, but is looking to continue group sessions in January, 2023. If you are a female Airman in the 633d SFS and are interested in joining this group for their next session, please reach out to your supervisor for more information.

“This career field is hard mentally and physically,” said Acosta. “All it takes is one Airman to start a change and help someone that may be struggling. I want Braids and Berets to be a safe space for women who may feel stuck in a difficult situation, to be able to share their story and help change things.”