Warriors breaking barriers: Inaugural ARC Athena event concludes in Pittsburgh

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Marjorie A. Schurr
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 911th Airlift Wing, in conjunction with the 171st Air Refueling Wing and the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, hosted the inaugural Air Reserve Component Athena event in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, April 12-13, 2023.

Attendees of the event included Sharene Brown, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.; Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lt. Gen. John P. Healy, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command; Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass; Air Force Reserve Command Chief Master Sergeant Timothy C. White; and approximately 240 other Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members focused on generating changes and reforms to remove long-standing barriers to women’s service.

“We have to do everything we can within the scope and scale of the authority we have to remove those barriers,” said Hokanson. “These conversations are the things that will make our organizations better.”

ARC Athena is the fifth of its kind since Air Combat Command launched its Sword Athena in August of 2020, followed by Air Force Materiel Command’s Reach Athena, Air Force Special Operations Command’s Dagger Athena, and Air Education and Training Command’s Torch Athena. However, ARC Athena is unique in that it is led by and designed to impact guardsmen and reservists all over the world.

Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Schatzman, 911th Operations Support Squadron senior enlisted leader and ARC Athena co-lead, solicited the support of volunteers across the country from a variety of bases and statuses to launch this event.

“That’s a lot of compiling,” said Schatzman. “That’s different states, different time zones, and the result is awesome… I am humbled to have had a part in this effort to enact change.”

Guardsmen and reservists collaborated in support of nine lines of effort to make recommendations for change to senior leaders. Discussions covered a wide variety of topics including childcare availability for traditional reservists and drill status guardsmen, pregnancy discrimination and maternal bias, maternal fitness and healthcare, and programs to support families with special needs. Though these issues have existed for years, it is never too late to start addressing them, said White.

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today,” said White. “Thank you for the seeds you have planted today.”

Healy emphasized that these are not issues that only affect the female members of the Total Force. Instead, they affect every Airman, no matter their branch or duty status, and impact the ability to accomplish the mission.

“Ultimately, this gets down to readiness,” said Healy. “This is a readiness issue, pure and simple.”

Though these issues are not necessarily unique to reservists and guardsmen, they pose unique challenges to different duty statuses, and adding ARC voices to the conversation is necessary for growth. For the Air Force to accelerate change and thrive, said Brown, leaders from all ranks and walks of life need to work together to address these critical needs.

Though the event wrapped up after two days, the work has only just begun. As the Air Force Reserve celebrates its 75th year of service, Airmen driving ARC Athena will continue to work toward change within the nine lines of effort and are scheduled to come together again next year in New Mexico to continue the collaboration and teamwork needed to transform for the future.