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Developing women Airmen: 156 AW holds first PRANG 'Lean In Circle'

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by Tech Sgt. Marizol Ruiz
156th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

12/23/2015 - CAROLINA, Puerto Rico – Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in September that the Department of Defense is offering “unconditional” support of “Lean In Circles,” peer-to-peer mentoring groups aimed at empowering women and propelling them into leadership roles.

During a recent visit, The National Guard Bureau Diversity office helped kick-off the first “Lean-In Circle” during the December Unit Training Assembly for the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.

156th AW commander Col. Edward L. Vaughan said he invited the NGB team to ensure the most talented personnel continue to move into progressively more responsible leadership roles.

“We are at war, and as a commander I need all our talent to fly, fight, and win,” said Vaughan. “Women are a vital part of our Airpower team, and without them, we will lose the fight, because women perform every military and combat function in the Air Force; and they do so brilliantly.”

Vaughan pointed out the importance of considering a fully inclusive pool of candidates for senior leadership positions, and said doing so is not an overnight process.

“On the average it takes 20 years or more to grow a colonel or a chief master sergeant in the Air Force, and even longer in the Air National Guard,” Vaughan said. “We must start with initial recruiting, Basic Training, and Officer Training School to open our aperture.”

Vaughan added that he plans to fully support the wing’s new “Lean In Circle” and give more time for women to gather and freely speak about the challenges they face as women in the PRANG. Vaughan is also encouraging male Airmen into the conversation.

The Lean-In visit was hosted by 156th Airlift Wing Captains Angela Feliciano, wing Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator, and Noemi Lopez, base Equal Opportunity Manager. “As a team we will succeed,” Capt Feliciano said. “To build that teamwork, we must address barriers to the success of all Airmen head-on.”

NGB Diversity director Shirley Raguindin said she was impressed by the commitment and esprit de corps of everyone from the 156 AW she met during her team’s Staff Assistance Visit.

“What is clear is that the men and women of the 156 AW are equally dedicated to mission accomplishment,” Raguindin said. “The women we met with want to achieve their greatest potential, and leaders here want to ensure there are no barriers to their success, which in turns ensures the unit’s success.”

The new Lean In chapter has proposed a name reflective of both unit culture and a growing appreciation of diversity. “Las Bucaneras”, which is the feminine Spanish equivalent of the unit’s “Flying Buccaneers” mascot, was proposed by wing Inspector General Lieutenant Colonel Ileana Ramirez. Said Ramirez, “As American Airmen, we are proud of our Puerto Rican heritage. Adopting the traditional pirate mascot, in a powerful feminine form, is very apropos.”

Vaughan concluded he is confident the Airman of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard are paving the way for a diverse Total Force culture that will enable each member of the team to succeed.

“I know they will do it. I am already incredibly proud of all my American Airmen, both women and men,” Vaughan said. “It is only by working together that we will achieve greatness.”


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