Brig. Gen. Caroline M. Miller, 502d Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio commander, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Wendell Snider hosted their “Tough Conversations” forum at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston March 23 on the topic of women in the military in recognition of Women’s History Month.

The command team took the time to discuss what it means to be a woman in the military today and how it has changed throughout history.

Since joining the military in 1993, Miller said the changes she has seen include the ability for women to serve in combat roles, the uniform alterations for pregnant service members, properly fitted body armor, and hair standards changes.

“Cultivating an inclusive environment built on dignity and respect is a significant part of our lines of effort here in the 502d Air Base Wing,” Miller said. “As your command team, we want to ensure we are tracking any potential concerns about equality and inclusion for our female population.”

One Airman said her gender caused her to approach her military career from a different angle.

“It didn’t stop me from reaching the end goal,” the Airman said. “The way I got there was just different. I had female bosses in my civilian and military career, and it has been beneficial to learn what they went through and how we continue to grow and lead other women.”

“A man’s job is seen as more important than his wife’s,” said one individual who spoke about his wife, who left the service after 13 years feeling undervalued compared to her husband. He noted instances where his command prioritized his work schedule over hers when it came to taking care of family matters.

Another member asked what the goal of the command team was when it comes to shining a light on diversity and what an ideal organization would look like.

“Mine is an organization that treats everybody with dignity and respect. I want people to feel comfortable, like they belong in their career field, whether it’s one they selected, or the Air Force selected for them,” Miller said in response.

The conversation shifted to what changes would need to happen in order for the organization to be more inclusive.

“I don’t think the conversation is being had; maybe it’s not being brought up enough,” said one participant.

“Sometimes we focus so much on effectiveness and efficiency that we lose focus on the human element,” said another participant who prioritized personal relationships in his position.

Several members in the discussion agreed that communication between junior enlisted service members and leadership needed to happen more often.

“It’s hard to get a younger Airman to understand that an open-door policy is a real thing,” said an attendee who wanted Airmen to feel more comfortable speaking up when necessary.

“As we continue to grow, we need to continue to think outside the box,” said Snider, reiterating the importance of Airmen being creative when it comes to finding solutions to these issues.

Miller emphasized the need for input, and encouraged the focus group to reach out to the command team with ideas for improving the command, and she expressed her gratitude for their time and input on the topic.

“I want people to feel like they don’t have to change who they are as a person when they go in to work,” Miller said.

The “Tough Conversations” Roundtable is a monthly series focused on important, challenging and impactful topics which affect the Air Force and Department of Defense. This series fosters an open and candid dialogue between 502d Air Base Wing senior leaders, service members and civilians, of all ranks and backgrounds.

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