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Building the Air Force we want

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Emily Seaton
  • 20th Air Force
A conversation between best friends about experiencing life in the Air Force differently than their peers because of biases, different life stages and gender role expectations led to a few realizations for Maj Kim Rigby, deputy chief of staff of Air Force Global Strike Command: 1) these biases and expectations can greatly impact a woman’s ability to continue serving in the Air Force, 2) she was not alone in these feelings, and 3) there was something she could do about it.

Rigby joined the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group Women’s Initiatives Team, an all-volunteer force of women and men whose mission is to “Be an advocate that influences a woman’s propensity to serve the Air Force.” She now leads one of WIT’s 12 lines of effort, LOE 5: Family Member Accommodations Policies.

“Through the Barrier Analysis Working Groups, we get to build the Air Force we want to serve in,” exclaimed Rigby. “People write policy, so people can change policy.”

She shared that the WIT has a formula for identifying barriers, researching the issue and affecting policy. Recent WIT accomplishments include policy changes to women’s hair standards, modernized policies to better support pregnant and nursing service members, reduction of restrictive anthropometric standards for aviators, and thanks to the efforts of Rigby’s LOE team, bereavement leave updates in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.

Rigby sees these wins as “things we can do to make life and continued service a little easier; they help people feel seen and appreciated, and ultimately support them showing up for the mission as their best self, which makes the Air Force as a whole stronger. By relieving a barrier or a stressor, we can free up time for people to think more creatively and strategically about the challenges and threats we face”

The WIT formula can be used at any level, and it is encouraged that issues be handled at the lowest level possible. There are potential barriers that are major command, wing or career field specific that can be handled by local members by using tools the WIT provides.

Beyond policy change, Rigby explained that the WIT offers a lot of educational and leadership opportunities. They hold monthly meetings the first Tuesday of the month through Zoom with guest speakers, many of whom are subject matter experts, authors, thought leaders, etc.

Coming up March 8-10, 2022, is the second annual Department of Air Force Women’s Air and Space Power Symposium, which is being offered virtually. Air Force Global Strike Command is hosting their fourth Women’s Leadership Symposium April 12-13, 2022.

These events, as well as joining the WIT, are open to Airmen and Guardians across all ranks from the Total Force to include active duty, Guardsmen, reservists, and civilians. A variety of perspectives and skillsets enriches the solutions.

Since WIT is an all-volunteer team, rather than an official duty, members are encouraged to spend as much time and contribute as much as they want/are able to. Rigby calls it her “labor of love” and works with her supervisor to set aside dedicated time to focus on her LOE and sync up with her team.

Joining WIT is as simple as engaging; they welcome any interested Airmen whether they want to be actively involved in leading Lines of Effort or simply want to be more informed. The team has two main avenues for those interested: the DAF Women’s Initiatives Team (WIT) Facebook page and the WIT Portal page.

As Rigby says, “we don’t know what things need to be fixed until people feel they have a voice. People drive policy change. They bring awareness and solutions. The most inspiring part of WIT is seeing just how effective Airmen and Guardians can be at driving meaningful policy change that helps Airmen, Guardians, and their families thrive.”