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Retired general talks issues facing females in military

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rose Gudex
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
Retired Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, a former 14th Air Force commander, spoke to servicewomen from Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station about issues facing females in the military during a women's brunch Oct. 29.

The goal of the event was to create an environment where men and women discuss women's issues, network with female leaders and receive advice from a general officer with a vast amount of career achievements, said 1st Lt. Sarah Berheide, one of the event coordinators. The idea evolved from the idea of a "girl's night" and was adapted to become a military social and professional development event.

Helms was chosen because of her background in the space field and because she paved the way for women in the military as she was part of the Air Force Academy's first graduating class of females and the first U.S. military female to go to space with NASA where she holds the world record for the longest spacewalk.

The experiences of traveling to space five times, spanning a total of 211 days, gave Helms plenty to discuss about working with a predominately male work force. This included her time working with Russian cosmonauts and spanning back to her Academy days when some were not very accepting of women becoming officers.

A few points Helms made for attendees were to remain true to oneself despite the pressure to do otherwise, become competent and gain credibility by being a subject matter expert and support one other.

"If you are really good at what you do, no one can argue that you shouldn't be there," Helms said. "If you really know your stuff and you take the time to be as good as you can possibly be on the mission you've been assigned, that goes a long way toward your credibility and your reputation."

A point she emphasized was the importance for women to be proud of their role in the military and not to try to blend in.

"Don't worry about what can make you stand out as a woman," Helms said. "That's your strength from a diversity standpoint. The Air Force is a much stronger place today because they brought women in at a very fast pace."