Offutt hosts C2ISR female mentorship event

  • Published
  • By Kendra Williams, 55th Wing Public Affairs

As part of this year's Women's History Month celebration, the 55th Wing hosted some of the top female Air Force leaders for an hour-long mentorship session March 23, 2022.

The panel members included:

  • Lt. Gen. Mary O'Brien, deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force
  • Col. Kristen Thompson, commander, 55th Wing
  • Col. Michelle Carns, commander, 461st Air Control Wing, Robins AFB, Georgia
  • Col. Wendy Squarcia, commander, 170th Group, Nebraska ANG
  • Lt. Col. Shannon Antonson, commander, 55th Maintenance Squadron
“I always say when I’m in forums like this being a wing commander is awesome, because I get to have interactions with lieutenants, with A1Cs, but I also get to impact enterprise-level decisions,” said Thompson. “I think it’s cool we can be a funnel of information up to the very top, and we have wonderful leaders like General O’Brien who want to hear what you guys think.”

The panel members shared their perspectives regarding significant issues and current topics, and answered questions from the audience.

“We have to have the hard conversations and be open to listening. We use the words diversity and inclusion a lot, not just as buzzwords, but to really understand what those words mean,” said Squarcia. “Recognizing differences in each other is important and necessary, and we need to value and embrace those differences to benefit our organizations.”

They also discussed their professional experiences within their careers, obstacles or triumphs they have faced as female leaders in the military, and any changes they hope to see and are working to implement for women in the armed forces.

“Be fearless, don’t be afraid to have these conversations, don’t be afraid to question policy, don’t be afraid to make something better for your Airmen and your organization,” said Carns. “Don’t be afraid to put it out on the table. There will be someone at the table that says yes, I dealt with that, too. I’m so glad you brought that up. Be fearless about soliciting ideas and making sure these issues come to light so that they can be discussed.”

They also discussed changes they have seen in women’s roles in the armed forces and what they hope to see in the years to come. 

“I’ve been in the Air Force for 33 years, so there’s been a few changes,” said O’Brien. “When I was graduating from the Air Force Academy there was a list of career fields that I could apply for, then there were asterisks next to all the ones that didn’t allow women. I think that was a huge change that no career fields are closed to women [now]. The way that this collaboration is happening is really significant.”