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NEWS | Nov. 23, 2021

Women's Initiative Team Awarded

By Senior Airman Kevyn Allen 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The Women’s Initiative Team (WIT), was recognized for their achievements with the Department of the Air Force Diversity and Inclusion Team Innovation Award at the Pentagon.

Lt. Col. Chandra Flemming, 25th Fighter Squadron directing officer, and Lt. Col. Kathryn Gaetke 7th Air Force division chief were among those recognized by at the Pentagon, with Secretary of the Air Force Mr. Frank Kendal and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Charles Brown in attendance.

The primary focus of the WIT is the breaking of barriers that affect women’s abilities to serve in the Air Force. Their recent changes include a policy change to AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force. The new hair standards have single-handedly changed the way women can wear their hair while in uniform.

“So these braids, these ponytails, that’s what the WIT did,” said Flemming. “There was a group called Warrior Braids, and they recognized that there were issues for women having their hair in a bun all day, like hair-loss and migraines being caused. It’s also not inclusive of all cultures and hair types.”

The WIT also identified policies preventing female Airmen from becoming pilots without a special waiver. WIT encouraged policy changes to develop the pilot program to more women and give more people a chance to serve their country.

“So right now the minimum height to be a pilot is 5’4, and fifty percent of the female population in the U.S. is 5’4 or shorter,” said Flemming. "It opened the door to half of the female population in the U.S. by having the barrier of a waiver removed.”

In effort to assist female Airmen throughout the Air Force, the WIT exercises their focus on women’s service like Air Combat Command’s “SWORD ATHENA” to identify the major problem areas. With “SWORD ATHENA”, the WIT learn which problems impact the force the most and prioritize solutions based on those needs.

“One win that came out of “SWORD ATHENA” was the authorization of blue tooth enabled breast pumps in secure vaults. This let me continue to work efficiently and continue to breastfeed my baby in the AOC,” said Gaetke.

The WIT’s continued efforts to accelerate change and knock down barriers that stand in the way of women serving to their full potential has earned the team the Department of the Air Force Diversity and Inclusion Team Innovation Award.

In a short amount of time, the WIT contributions have been on the cusp of creating major changes within the Air Force. Their future plans include efforts to accelerating diversity and inclusion, thus making the Air Force suitable for all service members.
 

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