McConnell Airmen attend Women in Aviation International Conference

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Carla E. Stefaniak
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Nine Airmen assigned to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing attended the 28th annual 2017 Women in Aviation International Conference March 2-5, Orlando, Florida.

WAI is a non-profit organization dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of women in all aviation career fields. Women make up nearly half of the population in the United States, yet in the Air Force they account for only 28.8 percent of Airmen and 6.9 percent of flyers, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The conference included educational sessions, exhibit halls, scholarship awards and key-note speakers. Some of the speakers included Dawn Seymour, a World War II Women Airforce Service Pilot; retired Col. Yvonne Cagle, astronaut; and Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, the highest ranking African-American female pilot in all of the U.S. armed forces.

“It was inspiring to meet the women who paved the way for us to be able to do what we love,” said Capt. Rachel Quirarte, 349th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker pilot.

The conference promoted networking and career and professional development to inspire young women to pursue careers in aviation and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“This [conference] was a chance to highlight our qualified and diverse aircrews to the outside world,” said Maj. Chrystina Jones, 22nd ARW Plans and Programs deputy chief. “We have an opportunity to encourage young talented women interested in aviation to join the Air Force.”

Jones organized the McConnell contingent, which included pilots, navigators, boom operators and air traffic controllers.

“Being in an environment with others who share the same passion and excitement for aviation is energizing,” said Jones. “My involvement in WAI has been a highlight of my career. Airmen interested in attending conferences like this one should ask their commanders for support.”

This annual conference, which is open to both men and women, enhances understanding and awareness of gender-diverse aircrews and the related challenges. It allowed for McConnell Airmen to build personal relationships with important aviation agencies and receive career mentorship.

“This conference was not just for fun, but to learn, network and grow,” said Lt. Col. Jasmin Silence, the 350th ARS commander. “We are thankful that McConnell leadership was able to support such a large group to attend.”