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Commentary | March 25, 2009

Deserving women of Langley

By Lt . Col. Sabina Garrett 1st Medical Support Squadron

Langley's Airman and Family Readiness Center's Spring Fling offered a great opportunity to interview and showcase truly deserving women of Langley. Five unique and talented women offered insight into the meaning of the Women's History Month theme, "Preserving the Environment", the evolution of shifting gender roles, and the importance of mentorship in personal and professional growth. 

The following questions were asked during a short interview period revealing life learned perspectives of Langley women from varied military and civilian backgrounds. 

What does the WHM theme, "Preserving the Environment" mean to you and how is this theme visible in your military or civilian daily life?

Ms. Arleen Diggs, Lead School Age Program assistant at Shellbank Youth Center and recently received "Quest for Excellence Award for School Age Child Program",  has incorporated environmental recycling into Youth Center projects and lesson plans both on base and in Hampton downtown park/school cleanup efforts. This allows children to grow reinforcing the importance of "clean and green" in their lives.

Ms. Jennifer Basak, Air Force Reserve chief nurse and military spouse, feels this will help future generations of children to understand recycling, the negative affects from airborne fuels, healthy balanced lifestyles and the significance of child obesity.

How has the shift in traditional gender roles impacted military and civilian women?

Ms. Vickie Williams, Shellbank Youth Center recreation aid, emphasized the growing skills sets women have today that allow for career success and the ability to survive during tough economic times.

Ms. Carla Diamond,  Airman and Family Readiness Center chief, has clearly seen improvement in career growth and progression in DoD career fields. Greater opportunities have opened for women in traditional and leadership roles, as well as for men in non-traditional roles.

How do you juggle the demands of family and career?

Ms. Wendy Coykendall, stay at home mother and military spouse, said the career focused military female leader of today fulfills both intense and persuasive roles that must be balanced with support mechanisms within the family and military system. The stay at home military mom is truly the "CEO of the Family". They must take on the critical role of balancing home, health, and finance. Most importantly they must be willing to give up a career, allowing their spouse peace of mind to focus on the mission.

Ms. Diggs feels that women are now in the forefront of both home and career. Children now see their mom sometimes working multiple jobs, going to school and taking care of the family. These amazing women serve as a role model and inspiration to children in succeeding against life's challenges

What women have influenced your career and do feel it is important for you to serve as a mentor to others?

Ms. Basak had multiple mentors as she progressed through school and military service. She firmly believes that a seasoned spouse should share their experiences with other new spouses to help them learn how to be independent and strong during tough times, such as deployment.

Ms. Williams talked about providing/receiving strength from the family during good and bad times. She feels that offering advice to other military members or spouses provide an avenue of support, advice, and guidance to gain an open mind and positive perspective when proceeding forward faced with difficult issues.

Do you think the Air Force will continue to promote women to senior level ranks as the Army has promoted the first female four-star general?

Ms. Diamond excitedly responded that the possibility and opportunity definitely exists for continued promotion.

Ms. Coykendall response was "absolutely". She stated "this is just a sign of things to come" with strong women moving forward in all career fields.