Offutt residency physician works with key partner to break barriers for women in military

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  • By 55th Wing Public Affairs

A 55th Medical Group residency physician recently joined six other Airmen on a trip to Africa where they worked alongside members of the Botswana Defence Force for a weeklong conference.

The trip was part of an ongoing Secretary of the Air Force international affairs initiative to develop critical capabilities and exchange best practices with our key partner in the region.

“This was a really eye-opening experience for me because I have not been involved in any program like,” said Maj. Anne Marie Kennedy, 55th MDG family medicine residency physician. “It was really amazing to work with members of the BDF and to hear about their military mission, goals and culture.”

Kennedy was selected for the program because of her involvement with Sword Athena, which is an Air Combat Command program to help reduce female and family-centric barriers to readiness and service, as well as her medical background.

“Working primarily in the medical field, an opportunity like this was not on my radar at all,” she said.

Participants had the opportunity to hear how community engagement opportunities through civil and public affairs can build and improve relationships across the country, while also knocking down barriers that adversely affect recruitment and retention of women.

“We also focused on policy writing and barrier analysis,” Kennedy said. “The BDF integrated women into their military 16 years ago and they are looking for ways to increase recruitment and retention.”

Kennedy had the opportunity to team with another attendee to lead a talk about diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility concepts and relevance, risks, rewards, roadblocks and repetition, also known as the Five R Model.

“The goal was to teach about refining existing policy and writing new policy that is inclusive for women and all families within the BDF,” Kennedy said. “We wanted to do more than just talk about solutions…we aimed to give their team the tools to move out and make meaningful change.”

The BDF also shared some of the initiatives they are currently working on regarding female barriers within the military.

“I was really impressed that the BDF are asking some really hard questions and willing to take on big lines of effort that will result in not only policy changes, but cultural mindset shifts,” Kennedy said. “When you look at the history of the Air Force and the Department of Defense it took us a long time as an organization to be willing to address some sensitive topics regarding race, gender and cultural norms.”

The conference culminated with a lecture by the BDF director of human resources on their strategy moving forward and how they can further integrate with the Air Force.

“It is easy to get tunnel vision into the way things are done in the United States, so it is always helpful to view a problem set from a different, fresh perspective because it might lead to a solution no one had thought of,” Kennedy said. “This is something I think we can do more of within the Air Force, especially when working with other nations.”