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Warriors Take Aim at Breaking Barriers at Inaugural ARC Athena Event

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Marjorie A. Schurr

Some of the top minds in the Reserve Component gathered to focus their attention on removing long-standing barriers to women’s service at the inaugural Air Reserve Component Athena event in Moon Township, Pennsylvania in April.

The Air Force Reserve’s 911th Airlift Wing hosted the event in conjunction with the Air National Guard’s 171st Air Refueling Wing and the Army Reserve’s 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

The event attracted a host of senior leaders, including Sharene Brown, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.; Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lt. Gen. John Healy, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command; Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass; and former Air Force Reserve Command Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White.

“We have to do everything we can within the scope and scale of the authority we have to remove those barriers,” Hokanson said. “These conversations are the things that will make our organizations better.”

ARC Athena is the fifth of its kind since Air Combat Command launched its Sword Athena in August of 2020, followed by Air Force Materiel Command’s Reach Athena, Air Force Special Operation Command’s Dagger Athena, and Air Education and Training Command’s Torch Athena. ARC Athena is unique in that it is led by and designed to impact Guardsmen and Reservists all over the world.

Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Schatzman, 911th Operations Support Squadron senior enlisted leader and ARC Athena co-lead, solicited the support of volunteers across the country from a variety of bases and statuses to launch this event.

“That’s a lot of compiling,” she said. “That’s different states, different time zones … and the result is awesome. I am humbled to have had a part in this effort to enact change.”

Guardsmen and Reservists collaborated in support of nine lines of effort to make recommendations for change to senior leaders. Discussions covered a wide variety of topics, including childcare availability for traditional Reservists and drill-status Guardsmen, pregnancy discrimination and maternal bias, maternal fitness and healthcare, and programs to support families with special needs.

Though these issues have existed for years, it is never too late to start addressing them, White said. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today,” he said. “Thank you for the seeds you have planted today.”

Healy emphasized that these are not issues that only affect the female members of the Total Force. Instead, they affect every Airman, no matter their branch or duty status, and impact the ability to accomplish the mission.

“Ultimately, this gets down to readiness,” he said. “This is a readiness issue, pure and simple.”

Though these issues are not necessarily unique to Reservists and Guardsmen, they pose unique challenges to different duty statuses, and adding ARC voices to the conversation is necessary for growth.

For the Air Force to accelerate change and thrive, said Brown, leaders from all ranks and walks of life need to work together to address these critical needs.

While the event wrapped up after two days, the work has only just begun. As the Air Force Reserve celebrates its 75th year of service, Airmen driving ARC Athena will continue to work toward change within the nine lines of effort and are scheduled to come together again next year in New Mexico to continue the collaboration and teamwork needed to transform for the future.

(Schurr is assigned to the 911th Airlift Wing public affairs office.)