AETC’s Torch Athena brings Airmen, Guardians together for collaboration

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Nadia K. Rossin
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

Airmen across Air Education and Training Command and locals to the Joint Base San Antonio area gathered for the inaugural Torch Athena Rally, Fly-In and Girls in Aviation event at Tech Port San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 19 – 21, 2023.

Torch Athena, a women's initiative program within AETC, has the primary goal of fostering camaraderie among participants and addressing critical issues as a united team. 

"Developing the future of our Air Force starts in AETC,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson, commander of Air Education and Training Command. “An event such as this one brings Airmen together for collaborating, communicating and identifying items for action."

The event featured distinguished leaders such as Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass, Maj. Gen. Michele Edmondson, 2nd Air Force commander, and Brig. Gen. Lisa Craig, Air Force Recruiting Service deputy commander, to name a few. The leaders provided insights into critical topics such as leadership development, breaking down barriers and juggling marriage, motherhood and military service.

“Events like Torch Athena offer a valuable opportunity to come together, connect, and learn,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Joanne Bass. “By embracing the strength of our diversity and focusing on our people, readiness, and culture, we cultivate a shared vision for a stronger, empowered future within our Air Force.”

Four hundred attendees from various locations within AETC traveled to San Antonio to take part in the inaugural event, which included interactive panel discussions, breakout sessions and invaluable opportunities to connect with leaders, peers and fellow participants.

The culmination of the three-day event was the Girls in Aviation celebration, which showcased women from across AETC and their aircraft.  The women represented various career fields, such as pilots, student pilots, instructors, maintainers, even boom operators.

Air Force Recruiting Service officials partnered with Torch Athena to bring approximately 370 local students to the fly-in event; their aim was to inform, influence, and inspire the next generation of aviators and leaders, demonstrating the Air Force's commitment to fostering diverse talent and leaders.

“These type of engagements with the community are exactly what we are trying to get after– increasing the diversity of our rated career fields,” said Capt. Michael Walsleben, inspire operations program director for AFRS Detachment 1. “Working with the Torch Athena team at events like this brings us that much closer to our goal of reaching underserved communities and inspiring youth to dream big.”

One such example of inspiration taking hold of the younger generations stepped onto the flightline at JBSA-Kelly Field during the Girls in Aviation celebration.

“I got into the AIM HIGH Flight Academy for the summer of 2023,” said Gaby Casias, student from the University of Incarnate Word. “I really got exposure to flying and going to Luke Air Force Base, [and] that field trip was really what [told] me that I wanted to go into the Air Force.

“I think standing next to these aircraft is life-changing for women of all ages,” she continued. “I’ve seen girls here who are so young, and girls my age here, and just getting that exposure really young can open them up to world of aviation.”

Athena initiatives have been established across other major commands throughout the Department of the Air Force. The specific focus of AETC's Torch Athena is on empowerment through education, underscoring the importance of equipping women with the knowledge and resources they need to excel within the military.

“As long as there are opportunities to continue breaking down barriers to service through communication and empowerment, the women of Torch Athena will be working to bring people together.” said Maj. Kathryn Tidwell, Torch Athena Rally lead.

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