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Airman reflects on 'Heritage to Horizons' Symposium

From left, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Anderson, 552nd Maintenance Squadron; Staff Sgt. Jamie R. Neal, 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron; 1st Lt. Kristen Hobbs, 752nd Communications Squadron; Staff Sgt. Kalonna T. Miller, 552nd Air Control Wing; and 1st Lt. Darci Day, 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron, at the Heritage to Horizons Women's Symposium in Washington, D.C.  (Courtesy photo)

From left, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Anderson, 552nd Maintenance Squadron; Staff Sgt. Jamie R. Neal, 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron; 1st Lt. Kristen Hobbs, 752nd Communications Squadron; Staff Sgt. Kalonna T. Miller, 552nd Air Control Wing; and 1st Lt. Darci Day, 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron, at the Heritage to Horizons Women's Symposium in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- I was lucky enough to attend the Heritage to Horizons Women's Symposium in Washington D.C. this past fall. I heard many women tell their success stories and was inspired by these women and their great careers. 
   We experienced first-hand the proud heritage of ingenuity, courage, resolve and success from many accomplished female Airmen. Notably, Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, the first woman selected for promotion to brigadier general in the comptroller career field and Chief Master Sgt. Dottie Holmes, the first enlisted female to retire with 30 years total service.
   We also heard from Col. Regina Aune, who served as a nurse and was on one of the first official government flights of Operation Babylift, in 1975 more than 2,000 infants and children were airlifted from Vietnam and adopted by families around the world. Col. Regina Aune was also a survivor of the well-known C-5A aircraft that had an in-flight explosion at 23,000 feet and crashed two miles from Tan Son Nhut. More than 300 were on board and more than half were killed. 
   In addition, we met trailblazers such as Tech. Sgt. Kathy V. Shaw, the first female enlisted tactical combat convoy commander, and Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, the highest ranking female commissioned officer in today's Air Force. 
   The symposium started with a history of women in the Air Force and how far women have come.
   When women first wanted to join the Air Force the major concern was, "Who will do all the washing and cleaning?" When they did join, women had no rank and later received "relative rank," but women were not to give any orders to men. Subsequently and until 1967, the highest rank a woman could hold was "temporary" colonel. The logic was women might go through menopause when they come up for promotion to general and men said, "We can't have them making irrational decisions!"
   Women had to make many personal sacrifices to serve in the military and included restricting female Airmen from becoming pregnant. 
   Symposium speakers left attendees with some present-day rules for success:
   · If forced to make a choice, deciding between family or career, it is a personal decision. Airmen may have to ask themselves, "Which do I want more? What do I want out of life? What are my life goals?" They must find personal balance by prioritizing what they do and how they do it. 
   · Figure out what you are on this earth for and make a significant contribution! 
   · As women...when you stand up for yourself, do it with passion and not emotion. 
   · Be careful about the perception you are giving off...two men can go to lunch together every day, but if a man and a woman go together every day, the perception could harm your reputation. 
   · Be humble, your true character will show when you are given power. 
   · Turn mistakes into learning opportunities. 
   · Being a leader isn't just giving orders, but also educating and listening to your subordinates.
   · Watch what you say. Picture yourself five years in the future, in front of a crowd, and having your words quoted back to you.
   · At the end of the day, it's not what you do, but whom you do it with. 
    · The military can transform its people, and eventually society--as Airmen return to civilian life with high morals and ethics. 
   This was truly an amazing event. I felt honored and very grateful to attend the Heritage to Horizons conference. The guidance we received will help us throughout our careers.
   This event made me even more proud to serve under a wing commander that is a female Airman of firsts herself. Brig. Gen. Lori Robinson is the first female wing commander and the first Air Battle Manager Flag Officer. I look forward to following in the footsteps of these great leaders!