Malmstrom AFB Women’s Symposium: Empowered women empower women

  • Published
  • By Heather Heiney
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

Empowered women empower women. This is the focus of Malmstrom Air Force Base’s Women’s History Month observances for 2022.

As one of the main events, the 341st Missile Wing hosted a Women’s Leadership Forum March 10-11, not only for Team Malmstrom, but for attendees who traveled from bases across
Air Force Global Strike Command. The forum focused around discussing women’s issues, particularly within the nuclear enterprise.

Guest speakers included
Brig. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser, Headquarters Air Force principal assistant deputy administrator for military application; Summer Jones, National Nuclear Security Administration assistant deputy administrator for the production modernization program; Dr. Njema Frazier, NNSA assistant deputy administrator for strategic partnership programs; Brooke Samples, NNSA senior policy advisor for the Office of Defense Programs; Chief Master Sgt. Melvina Smith, AFGSC command chief; and Allison McQueen, AFGSC director of manpower, personnel and services.

On March 9, guest speakers had the opportunity to tour the base, meet with Airmen and see the mission impacts of the work they do first-hand, even visiting a missile alert facility that was operated entirely by women in honor of Women’s History Month.

Col. Anita
Feugate Opperman, 341st Missile Wing commander, delivered opening remarks March 10, then Huser kicked off the symposium by explaining her role as a liaison between the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, telling her personal story of how her three principles of authenticity, joy and grace to guide her. She also shared some learning experiences she's gained through the years, to include overcoming the belief that she had to lead as someone she wasn't. Huser said when she was a young officer, she used to pride herself on being “one of the guys” until she had a realization 10 years into her career.

“I don’t know what, but something in me changed and I got mad,” Huser said. “I shouldn’t be one of the guys. I shouldn’t be the only woman in this shop. I shouldn’t be the first woman in this shop. There should be women all around me there should have been women before me and after me and where are they? That’s when I got passionate about women being present.”

Following Huser, 341st MW senior enlisted leaders held a women’s leadership panel to answer questions about the importance of mentorship and teambuilding. Then, during the NNSA leadership panel Jones, Frazier and Samples explained their roles in the nuclear enterprise. The NNSA is the part of the Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. As women in science, they discussed how they reached their leadership positions and overcame biases.

“We’ve opened the aperture of what’s considered acceptable,” Samples said. “To me that’s a huge part of changing the culture.”

After lunch there were two breakout sessions, one about the future of intercontinental ballistic missiles and one on the challenges women face in the workplace.

Day two began with a women’s leadership panel comprised of commissioned senior leaders who answered questions about career progression and the importance of women advocating for themselves.

Then, McQueen took the stage with her presentation “How to be your authentic self and still have a seat at the table,” discussing why authenticity is an important characteristic of good leaders and how great leaders help those who don’t have a voice, find their voice.

Finally, Smith wrapped up the symposium by calling in virtually from AFGSC Headquarters. She discussed developing resilience while serving and the importance of understanding what that looks like for everyone. She shared her own story of joining after experiencing a traumatic event in her life and how she has fostered her own resilience throughout her career by focusing on her reason for serving.

“I came in for me, but I stayed because I found my family,” Smith said. “Focus on your 'why' and that will help you persevere.”

Opperman explained that forums and discussions for minority groups are important because they bring people together, highlight existing roadblocks and help accelerate progress in diversity, equity and inclusion.

“If you are a trailblazer, you’re doing this not only for yourself, but to help whoever comes behind you,” Feugate Opperman said. “I think the biggest takeaway for us is to educate and inform but also to listen and respond; this is a growing opportunity for everyone.”