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Keesler hosts first Military Women's Summit

U.S. Air Force Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st Training Wing commander, speaks during the 2021 Mississippi Veteran Affairs Military Women's Summit in the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, March 25, 2021. The summit focused on the goal of supporting a diverse and inclusive force catered to veterans, retirees, reservists, active duty and national guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

U.S. Air Force Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st Training Wing commander, speaks during the 2021 Mississippi Veteran Affairs Military Women's Summit in the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, March 25, 2021. The summit focused on the goal of supporting a diverse and inclusive force catered to veterans, retirees, reservists, active duty and national guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

The 2021 Mississippi Veteran Affairs Military Women's Summit attendees pose for a photo in the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, March 25, 2021. The summit focused on the goal of supporting a diverse and inclusive force catered to veterans, retirees, reservists, active duty and national guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

The 2021 Mississippi Veteran Affairs Military Women's Summit attendees pose for a photo in the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, March 25, 2021. The summit focused on the goal of supporting a diverse and inclusive force catered to veterans, retirees, reservists, active duty and national guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Esparza, 81st Training Wing command chief, speaks to attendees during the Military Women's Summit in the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base Mississippi, March 26, 2021. The summit focused on owning leadership catered to veterans, retirees, reservists, active duty and national guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly L. Mueller)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Esparza, 81st Training Wing command chief, speaks to attendees during the Military Women's Summit in the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base Mississippi, March 26, 2021. The summit focused on owning leadership catered to veterans, retirees, reservists, active duty and national guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly L. Mueller)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss.-- The Mississippi Veterans Affairs’ 2021 Military Women’s Summit was held on Keesler for the first time March 25 and 26, at the Bay Breeze Event Center.

Various leaders across the Air Force spoke on many topics with the goal of supporting a diverse and inclusive force to an audience consisting of men and women of different ranks, time in service and different branches of the Defense Department.

“The Keesler Military Women's Summit was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and reflect on Women’s History Month and to grow and develop personally and professionally,” said Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman, Air Education and Training Command director of plans, programs and requirements. “This event is perfectly aligned with Col Blackwell’s focus on creating a culture of inclusivity and transparency across the wing where every Airman’s voice is heard and valued.”

“Her team went above and beyond providing attendees exceptional opportunities for professional development through education, mentorship and networking. I am extremely honored to be a part of this event which supports and empowers all Airmen to reach their full potential,” Lenderman added.

Topics of the summit included leadership development, perspective, maintaining work-life balance, separations and future outside of the military and more.

Keynote speaker, Lt. Gen.Timothy D. Haugh, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) commander discussed the importance of attending and participating in events like the Military Women’s Summit and presented his perspective on expectations of leadership within Air Force culture.

“This is an opportunity to show up and talk about something that’s important," said Haugh. "It’s important to our Air Force, it’s important to our Airmen, it’s important to our nation to have conversations about the environment we want to create within our Air Force,” said Haugh. “If we are going to talk about the right environment in our units then we have to follow through with the actions. That means creating forums like a Listen, Learn and Lead series; listening inside there, but then acting. That’s what our Airmen expect.”

Keynote speakers such as Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st Training Wing commander, Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, 16th Air Force commander, Lenderman, Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Player, Mathies NCO Academy director of education, shared their experiences during this event in support of cultivating a diverse and inclusive force.

“As we are in the military, whether or not you’re a military member, contractor or civilian, there is always that need to find your place in the world or sometimes in an institution that may not be necessarily for you’” said Player. “We forget that it is our job to step out and be bold.”

Although events such as the Military Women’s Summit are examples of activities conducted to support awareness and facilitate unconscious bias training throughout the Air Force, more steps are needed to continue the identification of barriers that create challenges for the success of Airmen.

“The purpose of the summit is to expose Keesler to a two-day event that uplifts people to step into their voice and own their leadership ability and their courage to be unafraid to step out on a limb,” said 2nd Lt. Tenisha Austin, 81st Contracting Squadron infrastructure flight commander.

The Mississippi Veterans Affairs’ 2021 Military Women’s Summit supports group communication throughout the Air Force highlighting the importance of retaining female Airmen and diversity throughout leadership. The summit also provides a platform to show case resources that address women’s challenges in the workplace.

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