JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
In the heart of a city known for its military culture, Air Force Recruiting Service is looking through a diverse lens to attract the best of America. More than 100 people throughout the U.S. assembled for the “Celebrating Sisterhood Through Empowerment, Progress, and Change” Women’s Symposium Aug. 10–12, 2021, at a hotel in downtown San Antonio. Dozens more tuned in virtually.
“When we say ‘progress and change’ we mean that there’s a need for more female leaders in recruiting,” said Senior Master Sgt. Stephanie Franco, production superintendent for the 338th Recruiting Squadron based at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Historically, women like Franco comprised a small fraction of the largely male recruiting force working in communities around the world. With more than 12 years in recruiting, she was an ideal selection for the team that organized the symposium.
“We wanted to show these younger women that there are others out here, like themselves, with who they can share their struggles or successes with. Or just widen that network of people they can go to.”
The women Franco is talking about are often the service’s face for the thousands of young people considering the total force as a career option. For AFRS’s top recruiter, attracting the best for America is an imperative.
“As we work to get the right mix in our recruiting force, we need strong female leaders. It is so important,” said Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, AFRS commander, during his opening address at the symposium. More broadly, Thomas said getting the best and brightest l warfighters in our ranks is a readiness imperative. “And If we get to the point where we don’t look like the democracy we serve, we put in peril the support of that democracy,” he added.
His remarks were followed by a program that featured personal resiliency stories from a panoply of guest speakers with connections to the military or recruitment for the Air Force, the Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard. The keynote speakers were retired Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, a former Inspector General of the Air Force and Chief Master Sgt. Wendy Thi, senior enlisted advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Force Management Integration.
There were also question-and-answer panels and several breakout sessions. Time was also afforded for networking.
“We have a different lens. It’s not better or worse but it is a different perspective and that’s what the Air Force is asking for, to have people from different backgrounds looking at problems so we can solve them better,” Franco said.