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ACC kicks off Sword Athena 2020

JOINT BASE-LANGLEY-EUSTIS --

Air Combat Command virtually kicked off the first-ever Sword Athena 2020 (SA20) Leadership Symposium Aug. 12, which was hosted from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and will continue through Aug. 14. The event is now 100% virtual due to COVID-19.

SA20 is the first event of its kind in ACC and is a forum for rising leaders, across ranks, to focus on female- and family-centric issues which impact readiness, guided by the vision of “Building Leaders Armed for Action.” The event will be modeled after Weapons and Tactic Conferences (WEPTAC) and will conduct focused Mission Area Working Groups (MAWGs) to address crowd-sourced issues and present short, medium, and/or long-term solutions to the commander of Air Combat Command.

The Mission Area Working Groups, or MAWGs, are focused on five lines of effort: mental health, psychological safety, equipment and gear, and family. Participants include one representative per active duty wing, plus total force members from the local Langley population.

Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of ACC, was the first keynote speaker for SA20 and discussed his personal and professional experiences with leadership throughout his 39-year journey in the Air Force. While answering a question from a participant, he brought up a recent study done at the University of Texas about women in the workforce.

“One of the parts they found out is that not only do women have different issues than men do about sticking in the Air Force, but they have different family issues too because of our society and the way that we’ve built it,” Holmes explained. “The number one thing I’d like to do is to try to find a way to address those family issues. What can we do to get rid of the barriers that force women to choose between having a career or having a family?”

Holmes also used a Zoom slideshow to discuss some of the top reasons Airmen leave the Air Force, which included job stress, work-life balance and family commitments, leadership issues at the squadron level, job satisfaction and personal issues. The second half of the first day was facilitated by Mr Jason “JW” Womack, an Instructor of Leadership Studies at Air University, an executive coach, a TEDx speaker, and published author. He facilitated a leadership development exercise in the morning, followed by a guided discussion about psychological safety in the afternoon.

Day two will include mentorship from senior leaders, as well as finalizing the day three outbrief to COMACC.

“One size should not fit all,” Holmes said. “We want the diversity, and that means being the best version of yourself you can be. I’ve read through some of the mission area working group’s preliminary work.

There’s work in there to help us try to remove the barriers to operational effectiveness and combat capability. I look forward to hearing more about it at the end of the week.”