• Published
  • By MSgt. Shirley Smith
  • Chief of Host Aviation Resource Management
Inspirational ... After a lot of thought, I have decided this is the only word which truly captures my experience at this year's Women in Aviation International Conference, which I, along with five other members of the wing, attended in Dallas, Texas, last week.

For those of you who know me, this may come as somewhat of a surprise, for I'm not usually known for excessive, flowery praise. But the conference was, in fact, inspirational and deserving of some flowery praise. I returned to Minneapolis rejuvenated, buoyed by the positive energy of the people I met.

The conference is a three-day event attended by 3,350 people this year from the U.S. and 13 other countries, who are predominately women from within the aviation community - private, commercial and military. The majority of them were crew members, but there were engineers and mechanics, educators and students, as well as many support people, like me, who may never touch an aircraft, but who fulfill a myriad of positions that keep our aircrew and aircraft out there completing the mission.

We came from different countries, different lifestyles and different career fields, but two things were universal among the attendees -- pride and enthusiasm for what we do. It was incredible to spend this time with such a large group of people who are excited about what they do and are showing it. I am always proud of the job I do and the unbelievable group of people with whom I am so blessed to share it, but I don't always show that pride. At the conference, it was a tangible thing.

The theme of this year's conference was Reaching Tomorrow Today and the very timely topic of change was addressed. Each morning, we started the day with a general session and after lunch there were a variety of breakout sessions to choose from. One of the sessions I chose was entitled Leading Through Change. At this session, the two biggest points the speakers wanted to get across were communication and honesty. I think these are both critical for us here at the 934th as we face an uncertain future with no knowledge of what the Air Force has planned for our wing. I think it is important that we all, at every level of supervision, are open with our subordinates and share what we know. It's also important that we are honest, and very clear with everyone what it is that we know to be true, and what we are merely speculating.

While we were there, two members of the 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Maj. Julia Ritz and Tech. Sgt. Mary Wetterstrand, put their training to use when they were called to assist an attendee in medical distress. They provided the attention she needed and kept the situation calm and controlled while waiting for the emergency medical technicians to arrive. To these two professionals, it was just another day of duty, but what a benefit for the young woman when she needed their help. Great job, Airmen!

I would encourage everyone to attend one of these conferences in the future. It was a wonderful opportunity and I would definitely attend again. If you have any questions, please feel free to stop by and ask about it. I would love to share the experience.