Women’s symposium leaves lasting impression on Hanscom Airmen

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
While the Air Force Women's Heritage to Horizons Training Symposium ended a little more than two weeks ago, the impact that it left on four Hanscom women will likely last through their lifetimes.

I was privileged to attend the symposium held in Springfield, Va., from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 with nearly 600 Airmen from across the service and three fellow Hanscom Airmen: Capt. Amanda Dietrich, Master Sgt. Laura Noel and Senior Airman Thalassa Shaheed.

As we listened to speakers and panelists address topics concerning the history of women in the military, women's roles in combat operations, breaking barriers through leadership, etc., the message that women are integral contributors in the support of the Constitution and the defense of the nation - and have been for quite some time - became very clear.

"It was inspiring to hear the stories of military women, past and present, who have paved the way for the rest of us," said Sergeant Noel, Patriot Honor Guard superintendent. "They are warriors juggling both career and family."

During the symposium attendees listened with often rapt awe to the stories of groundbreaking military women who were the credited with being the "first" to do a particular job or hold a particular position. Their stories were both fascinating and inspiring.

"[The symposium] made me realize how hard it must be to break those barriers, but after listening to the women who were "firsts," I realized that most of them were just doing their job. They weren't out to set records or break barriers," said Captain Dietrich, 66th Air Base Wing executive officer. "Some of them didn't even realize they did something special or amazing. To me that really shows how true the motto 'do the best job you can with the job you have right now' is."

Airman Shaheed, Electronic Systems Center information manager, offered similar sentiments of inspiration, "My take away from the symposium was that of great appreciation and respect for the women who came before me and those of the present. There are no limitations that are placed on me in regard to my career -- just the ones that I place on myself."

Many notable speakers addressed our group including: Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, Air Force Materiel Command vice commander, retired Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation president, retired Col. Regina Aune, the only woman to receive the Cheney Award for her actions in Vietnam during Operation Babylift, retired Chief Master Sgt. Dottie Holmes, the first woman to retire with 30 years of "all Air Force" service -- others started with the Women's Army Corps; retired Senior Master Sgt. Terri Picarro, one of only 4,000 enlisted women to be part of the WAF corps, and Margaret Ringenberg, who was a Women's Air Force Service Pilot in 1943.

Each presented her views to those in attendance on her service. Some, such as speaker Gail Evans, former CNN vice president, offered tips on leadership and techniques to use in the workplace to be more effective and empowered.

One particular topic Ms. Evans spoke about was networking, which Airman Shaheed said resonated with her. "Networking is a powerful force in our personal lives and should be the same in our professional lives," Airman Shaheed said.

The importance of first symposium to celebrate women's service in the Air Force was not lost on those attending, nor was stressing the importance of sharing one's story to motivate others and preserve Air Force heritage.

"We are making history right now and it is important for us to tell our story as well," Sergeant Noel said. "The Women In Military Service For America Memorial, is the first major national memorial honoring women in the military. Any woman who has served in our nation's armed forces can log on to their Web site, www.womensmemorial.org, send in a photo and tell her story."

For more information on the Air Force Women's Heritage to Horizons Training Symposium visit www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123074067 and www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123074289.