RAFM hosts first-ever Tri-Base Women’s Leadership Symposium

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Mendez
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Team Mildenhall hosted the first-ever Tri-Base Women’s Leadership Symposium at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, March 24.

The event aimed to provide women across the tri-base area the opportunity to network and empower one another through open discussion and leadership development. Nearly 80 women attended the event from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, 48th Fighter Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing.

“The symposium empowered me to be authentic, bold and courageous in my professional and personal life,” said Staff Sgt. Gisel Partida, 100th ARW wing programs NCO in charge. “It was a reminder that positive change is possible when we speak up against injustices and promote diversity and inclusion.”

Attendees of the event had the opportunity to learn, grow and carry invaluable skills back to their units through various panels, team-building activities and presentations by base helping agencies.

“The committee hoped to offer a forum to the tri-base area that involved inclusivity, diversity, and a safe place to have an open dialogue about challenges, barriers, and the future for women in the Air Force and Space Force,” said Master Sgt. Meshanda Lopez, 352nd SOW legal office superintendent. “We also hoped to forge sincere networking connections and support for our Airmen and Guardians, without filters, fear or judgement.”

The event was initially planned to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Due to COVID restrictions and regulations, the event was rescheduled three times before finally taking place in March.

“We had to overcome challenges and adversity with the ever-changing restrictions, but we were able to adapt and leverage technology in order to host the best event possible,” said Lopez. “The event was phenomenal; a better outcome than the team could have hoped for! We saw attendees being vulnerable and asking for support. We saw connections being made and felt the positivity in the room.”

Caroline Paige, the first transgender woman in the United Kingdom armed forces, was the symposium’s guest speaker. She discussed the hurdles and discrimination she faced throughout her 35 years of military service as an aircraft navigator. She urged symposium participants to believe in themselves, trust in others and find the strength to push forward. Since leaving the military, Paige has become a transgender rights advocate, traveling the world to share her story and educate others about being a transgender military service member.

“The symposium provided a space for women from different backgrounds and Air Force specialty codes to network, empower and learn from each other,” said Partida. “It provided women a platform to share our experiences and exchange advice.”

Attendees then had the opportunity so ask questions regarding Air Force policies and work-related hurdles during an Officer’s Q&A Panel and Chief and First Sergeant Q&A Panel.

The symposium wrapped up with an Equal Opportunity brief and various team-building events including historical trivia, powerful women trivia and a personality scavenger hunt.

“I hope leaders were able to take some really helpful resources that were mentioned during the event, as well as the opportunity to network and gain a friend or two, or even a mentor,” concluded Lopez. “Most importantly, people hopefully gained some inspiration to continue to grow, learn, and become better leaders, strengthened through diversity and empowered through unity.”