‘s Sword Athena members met last week to present recommendations to Gen. Mark Kelly, the commander of ACC, aimed at breaking down female and family-centric readiness barriers.
Over the last seven weeks, volunteers from across ACC crowd sourced more than 100 concerns from fellow Airmen, consolidated those concerns among six mission area working groups, and held a five-day topic development workshop to prepare their proposals.
The working groups focused on issues related to female fitment, military life, mental health, pregnancy, parenthood, and quality of life for Air Force families.
Kelly gave the parenthood working group the green light to begin a pilot program at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for a family communication app to be used at base childhood development centers. This app would allow families to stay in contact with their child’s teachers and receive updates throughout the day.
“Childcare is a fundamental institution in the Air Force that enables resilient and ready warfighters,” said Capt. Jill Cadieux, the Parenthood working group lead. “CDC and DoD members alike depend on immediate and accessible communication to meet the demands associated with the mission.”
The working group will collect data related to funding, sustainment, and manpower requirements for the app over the next six months, culminating in a proof-of-concept debrief in October. In accordance with ACC Staff’s direction, the team will ensure privacy protections are in place to protect families and teachers using the program. If the pilot program is successful, the team hopes that a similar program could eventually be instituted in CDCs throughout ACC and across the Air Force.
The Female Fitment working group received praise from Kelly for staying focused on enterprise-wide issues regarding access to equipment and uniforms designed for women. Among other proposals, the team requested that instruction on female bladder relief be added to formal training unit syllabi and for ACC to advocate for the Department of the Air Force to appoint members dedicated to continual improvements to female uniforms and equipment.
“Expecting the minority in a unit to constantly advocate for themselves to secure necessary gear for safe mission execution has not led us to a permanent solution yet,” said Capt. Erin Fullam, the Female Fitment working group lead. “It is time for the Air Force to lead this conversation and be the voice advocating for solutions.”
Some of the other lines of effort presented to Kelly include changes in guidance to provide Airmen with time off to handle personal readiness requirements prior to deployments, efforts to increase privacy for Airmen early in their pregnancy, and the creation of a tiger team that would establish a recognition program for schools that are best supporting military families. The team also proposed increasing advertisement of mental health resources located on the ACC Bridge, which is a one-stop shop for Airmen and families seeking helping agencies.
According to Col. Danielle Willis, the senior mentor for Sword Athena 2022, while there is still work to be done, she is optimistic that barriers to service are shrinking.
“Our hope is that in the next few years, as we continue the Sword Athena journey, it’s not so much about breaking down barriers that we identify after we design as system, but it’s about designing a system that incorporates the perspective of all of our Airmen,” she said.