Kirtland | Torch Athena: 58 SOW Airmen advocate for and empower women Published Sept. 12, 2023 By Senior Airman Karissa Dick 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Women from the 58th Special Operations Wing are leading the Torch Athena program at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Torch Athena is an Air Education and Training Command women’s initiative program that focuses on educating, empowering and advocating for female Airmen within AETC. Created in 2022, the program is currently working to provide Airmen with resources, opportunities, outreach, and an avenue to help solve female-centric challenges within the Air Force. “Torch Athena is about trying to find barriers to mission readiness for female airmen to try to make it easier to serve,” said Maj. Brittny Barney, 71st Special Operations Squadron instructor pilot and Torch Athena rally lead. “It allows us to empower Airmen so they can bring forth any issues and know their opinion matters, and they should feel empowered to be able to speak up when they have an idea that could benefit our force.” Currently, Torch Athena is preparing for an upcoming 3-day rally event in San Antonio from September 19-21. This rally is being held in conjunction with Girls in Aviation Day and the theme is “find your inner Athena power to thrive”. The event will include key-note speakers, civilian and military senior leader panels, recruiting information, career field breakout sessions and static aircraft displays for local students, Reserve Officer Training Corp’s cadets, Airmen and Company Grade officers. “The goal for this rally is to reach Airmen and CGOs at the lowest levels to let them see what opportunities there are, understand how women have succeeded in various career fields, for them to engage, have outreach and learn where they fit in the mission,” said Senior Master Sgt. Danielle Downs, 58th Maintenance Squadron senior enlisted leader and Torch Athena lead. Athena initiatives have also been established across other major commands, including Air Combat Command’s Sword Athena and Air Mobility Command’s Reach Athena. These Athena programs each focus on different initiatives within their perspective Major Commands, such as policies for readiness and family-centric highlights. According to the Air Force Personnel Center, females make up 21.4 % of our Air Force service, which makes Torch Athena’s mission crucial for providing female service members an outlet to express concerns or ideas that will contribute to bettering our readiness and overcome service challenges. “I love what the Air Force, and all military branches, are doing towards inclusiveness and realizing the differences across our services,” said Downs. “I think it's important because we have many bright young women who offer a lot and if we don't give them the chance to shine, because we just limited their opportunities, then we've really taken away from the diversity of our force. Torch Athena making all these things available to women and working towards leveling the playing field, so that that everyone can compete equally, is really important for the future of our military as a whole.” For media inquiries and access, please contact the AETC public affairs office at (210) 652-4400 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are able to facilitate phone interviews with AETC and Torch Athena officials, and provide imagery for reporters not in the area or unable to attend. For a complete schedule of events, visit: https://www.aetc.af.mil/Portals/88/Documents/Torch%20Athena/OFFICIAL_TASOE.pdf?ver=uWHQI4xfIsZ4MozTMMQi3w%3d%3d Follow Torch Athena on Instagram at @torchathena_aetc to see the latest events and information about the program.