By Shireen Bedi
Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs
FALLS CHURCH, Va. — International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the many contributions that women have made worldwide, and to the Air Force Medical Service. Women from around the AFMS are sharing their experiences and talking about importance to their careers as medical Airmen of the women who came before them.
International Women’s Day highlights the necessity and importance of diversity and equality to their position and to the organization as a whole.
“At all levels of the AFMS, we need diversity of experiences and leadership styles,” explained Master Sgt. Melissa Bridges, the Air Force Independent Duty Medical Technician consultant at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. “The Air Force does a good job of recognizing how women add to that diversity since we can bring unique perspectives on care and a dynamic approach to a situation.”
Throughout the AFMS, women bring unique experiences and backgrounds to the table, especially in leadership positions.
“At all levels, the fact that females are at the table allows the AFMS to benefit from the diverse views we can bring,” said Lt. Col. Rebecca Elliott, Squadron Commander at 52nd Medical Operations Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. “As a squadron commander, I can use my experiences and background towards different leadership tactics that could be beneficial for the position.”
AFMS women not only contribute greatly to the success of the organization, but have also contributed the success of other Airmen just beginning their careers.
“When I was just starting out, I looked up to female leadership and would emulate the traits that made them great leaders, especially those who had families and were able to balance it all,” said Lt. Col. Bonnie Stevenson, 49th Medical Operations Squadron commander at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. “I have been fortunate to have successful female mentors and now in my current position, I believe in paying it forward and helping other Airmen succeed.”
Many expressed how important it is for women to have representation in leadership, which has shaped and inspired them.
“It is great that within the AFMS, you are not limited and you know you have the potential to take on more leadership roles,” explained Maj. Sara Jansch, Women’s Health nurse practitioner at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. “It is inspiring for me to see my own mentors to become strong female leaders who have become squadron commanders and have lead their clinics.”
For women like Bridges, who is the first female Independent Duty Medical Technician consultant in the Air Force, International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of how far women have come in the Air Force, as well as the continued efforts the AFMS has done to ensure diversity and equality at every level.
“I think it is important to highlight and recognize the contribution of all Airmen, including women,” explained Maj. Khadidja Harrell, Chief Global Health Engagement at U.S. Pacific Command. “I think when young girls have women that look and feel like them doing things like being in the Air Force and practicing medicine, it gives them more motivation and inspiration that they are capable of the same things.”