By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Gross, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 27, 2018
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Eighteen Air Education and Training Command instructor pilots gathered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Nov. 16-18 for the second annual AETC Women’s Fly-In.
The training was organized by Lean In and Supergirls chapters from AETC bases, whose primary goal is to lessen the mentorship gap for women in the Air Force. Capts. Katy Boshears and Afton Brown, from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, put the new 14th Flying Training Wing mission of Cultivating Airmen and Connecting into practice for this annual professional development event.
Attendees were able to listen to other experienced female aviators, share instructional techniques and experiences, and talk about the 2018 RAND study results on female officer retention and minorities in pilot training. The weekend also incorporated mentoring of Oklahoma ROTC cadets who were able to talk to the pilots and tour the aircraft.
“We wanted to generate cross-talk between each of the (AETC) bases to discuss all of the major changes that have been taking place at each base,” said Boshears, a 14th Student Squadron Flight commander and T-6 instructor pilot. “… Women bring a different perspective to flying, and with so few of us in each of our respective organizations, it's important to create an opportunity for us to come together to share struggles, successes, and resources.”
The 2018 RAND study results showed that past the initial 13-year pilot training commitment, only 39 percent of rated women in the Air Force choose to continue to serve, compared to 63 percent of rated males. Boshears said, “with only 6 percent (730 total) of USAF active-duty pilots being women, and of those only 39 percent staying in past their commitment, the female representation in rated leadership roles drops significantly.”
Boshears led the discussion about the RAND study as attendees discussed ways to create enduring change for the next generation of women. Boshears said hopefully some of the ideas brainstormed during this time will lead to possible changes that will help keep women in the Air Force.
“The Air Force can't afford to lose any more pilots in order to feed the mission, and programs like this are an effort to stem the outflow of the female rated force by giving them a reason to stay in: partners, networking, resources and support,” she said.
Key speakers were Lt. Col. Tracy Schmidt, 33rd Flying Training Squadron director of operations and instructor pilot from Vance AFB, Oklahoma, and Maj. Christina Hopper, a 5th FTS IP at Vance AFB. Schmidt and Hopper shared their personal stories of overcoming challenges in in their careers and at home, as well as mentored attendees on leadership.
Capt Brown, 48th FTS Flight Commander and T-1 instructor pilot, taught and led discussion on instructional techniques. During the discussion, Brown talked about the psychology behind learning and teaching, and related the more complex “learning methodology” models to day-to-day instructing.
“We are in a profession that requires us to understand each student as an individual with individual needs, learning styles, emotions, and personalities,” Brown said. “You cannot provide cookie cutter instruction and expect all students of different backgrounds and life stages to learn the deeply complex profession of being a professional aviator.”
Brown said, “Instructors must understand a wide range of different techniques, teaching styles, and methods to make sure the students learn the cognitive, psychomotor, and emotional skills to deal with the dynamic and dangerous missions that they will encounter in their aviation career.”
Brown said she hopes the discussions inspire Air Force operators, officers and women, and that it’s important for all officers to receive mentorship from the female perspective.
“Only 1 percent of women (in the Air Force) are pilots, that means that topics that affect women pilots, such as women's mentorship, development, and family/career planning, are rarely discussed,” Brown said. “This event was an invaluable opportunity to talk about issues that disproportionately affect female aviators compared to our male counterparts. Being able to meet up through these events can help the Air Force to better understand how we develop and retain women in our military, and give women a reason to serve longer.”
Brown and Boshears helped build off of last year’s fly-in when 10 female IPs from Vance AFB came to Columbus AFB to present a talk on intra-gender communication, hold discussions, and provide mentoring opportunities. This year’s event was open to male and female instructor pilots from UPT bases.
“We want to thank Col. (Samantha) Weeks and our squadron commanders for their support of this event, as well as the Air Force Recruiting Squadron, Detachment 1 at Randolph AFB, (Texas),” Boshears said. “Their shared vision of connectivity motivated us to reach out and work with our peers across UPT.”
Next year, Brown and Boshears hope to expand the event to include men and women from all AETC bases and provide more community outreach. Their ultimate goal is to connect women, enable mentorship, and to inspire the next generation to pursue and achieve their professional and personal goals.