DAF leadership highlights military women’s challenges, opportunities

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Emmeline James
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force John F. Bentivegna and Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, deputy chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber and Nuclear, delivered remarks at the Joint Women's Leadership Symposium in Arlington, Virginia, June 26 and 27.

The symposium, one of the largest gatherings of military women, provides an opportunity for service members to meet, share practices on leadership and find mentors. Likewise, the gathering offers a platform for discussing challenges that affect female service members and ways to improve quality of life opportunities for the department’s most valuable resource -- people.

“Events like these present unrivalled opportunities for connection, mentorship and inspiration,” Burt said. “They allow us to dive into topics impacting service women today and further our development as leaders.”

Burt highlighted women's contributions to military history, detailing their involvement from the American Revolutionary War to the present. She described the evolution of women's roles in the military, noting significant milestones including the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 and the repeal of the combat exclusion policy in 2013.

“Over the past few decades, we've seen an increase in policies and initiatives aimed at enhancing opportunities for women in the military,” Burt said. “We've seen barriers broken down to create a more equitable environment where women can thrive.”

Burt also emphasized the importance of mentorship and support networks for female service members, citing initiatives like the Department of the Air Force's Women’s Initiative Team, which works to identify and eliminate barriers to women’s service.

She continued by describing how as more women rise through the ranks and take on leadership roles, there is a matched increase in the presence of female mentors to guide and inspire the next generation of service women.

A key aspect of the JWLS focused on the role communication has played in making the Department of the Air Force team more ready, more resilient and more prepared for great power competition.

“Communication is crucial for strengthening our collective defense,” Bentivegna noted.

Bentivegna highlighted the Space Force establishment and its efforts to integrate into the broader military framework. He underscored the importance of effective communication and collaboration across military branches and government agencies as key factors in enhancing operational capabilities and readiness in modern warfare.

Additionally, Bentivegna noted the significance of tailored training and professional development for Guardians to meet the demands of space-centric warfare.

Other speakers during the symposium included Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Department of Defense Press Secretary and Gwendolyn DeFilippi, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

During the symposium, DeFilippi and Chief Master Sgt. Ashley Damm, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Force Management Integration, presented the Brigadier General Wilma Vaught Visionary Leadership Award to three Airmen.

The award recognizes service members and civilians who have exhibited innovation, commitment and a selfless spirit to others while inspiring and significantly improving the integration of and opportunities for women in the Air Force. Award recipients are:

  • Capt. Frances Y. Castillo (Officer category): Castillo’s work includes pushing for a Department of Defense policy that affords privacy for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy for 230K service women. Her blueprint for the policy change was published in a periodical with more than 50,000 readers.
  • Tech. Sgt. Krystle L. Hatter (Enlisted category): Through innovative use of a 3D scanner, Hatter captured data for the Department of the Air Force’s first anthropometric study to incorporate women. This study improved equipment fit for over 4,000 aviators.
  • Mr. John D. Mata (Civilian category): Mata produced key data on physical training, nutrition, and injury-risk that informed gender integration policy for the Special Warfare Training Wing. His research highlighted strategies for female service members to leverage biological advantages to achieve peak performance throughout their military careers.