ACC Sword Athena holds 2024 Summit

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Taryn Onyon
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs

Volunteers from across Air Combat Command came together to collaborate and brief solutions to female and family-centric readiness barriers during the fifth annual SWORD ATHENA summit here, Mar. 12-15.

When ACC leadership charged Airmen with establishing a Women’s Symposium within the command, Airmen utilized ACC’s Weapons and Tactics Conference model, bringing critical requirements directly to decision-makers for staff action. 

Since the inception of SWORD ATHENA in 2020, teams have successfully partnered with multiple agencies to help develop new female hair regulations, increase the availability of maternity uniform sizes, remove barriers for nursing mothers, and more. Today, more USAF major commands have established their own ATHENA initiatives, addressing the needs of female Airmen and families across the entire branch. 

“Barriers often aren't intentional, but bureaucracies make it easy to say no. The intent is often good, but the implementation is wrong,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Koscheski, deputy commander of ACC. “The Air Force continues to make policy changes toward equity and inclusion but there is no finish line.” 

During the summit, the participants broke into Mission Area Working Groups to develop solutions for their lines of effort, with extra focus on family readiness. These solutions were then presented to a “Shark Tank” made up of ACC directorate staff and received feedback on their proposals. 

“Each MAWG is a cross-functional team, each of you bring a unique perspective so we need you to lean into each other’s strength because these are not just women’s issues, these are Airmen’s issues,” said Koscheski. “That’s why we have so many allies here to help us remove barriers that impact part of our workforce.” 

These working groups will continue to develop their resolution proposals over the next few weeks, and will present them to Gen. Ken Wilsbach, commander of ACC, to earn the support needed to implement their changes.

The groups are focused on four lines of effort. The first is working and training to ensure Airmen have the support and training required to execute the mission to their full potential. Another is focused on promoting psychological safety and mental health, developing ways to help Airmen and their families access mental health support. This entails exploring ways to build psychologically safe organizations where Airmen can have an active voice in their unit. A third team is finding ways to bolster the resilience of families and the systems they rely on for support through family readiness. The last line of effort pertains to policy barriers affecting single and joint spouse Airmen.

“SWORD ATHENA gives an empowered voice to our women and families to ensure policies are reflecting their needs,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Sharon Arana, ACC SWORD ATHENA Lead. “It is a tangible example of how our leadership at ACC understand that everyone is affected when the readiness needs of the entire population of our force are not being met.”