AETC’s Torch Athena members to hold inaugural rally, fly-in Sept. 19-21

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  • By Torch Athena

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas-- Torch Athena members, a women’s initiative program within Air Education and Training Command, are holding an inaugural rally and fly-in, Sept. 19-21, 2023, in San Antonio, Texas.

The goal of the event is to build camaraderie and outline critical issues that Torch Athena participants plan to conquer as part of the team, according to event organizers. U.S. Air Force Maj. Kathryn Tidwell, human performance flight commander at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and Torch Athena rally lead, said exposure to diverse role models and viable pathways to aviation careers at events like women’s fly-ins and aviation flight academies can increase diversity in the pilot force, both for the Air Force and commercial aviation.

“Our senior leaders continuously talk about accelerating change, and they mean it,” Tidwell said. “As a Total Force, we have seen many barriers removed or addressed over the last few years, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. I've joined the Torch Athena team to help spread the word through education, inspiration and networking to empower female Airmen to be the best versions of themselves.”

Athena initiatives have been established across other major commands including Air Combat Command’s Sword Athena and Air Mobility Command’s Reach Athena. Sword Athena focuses on generating policy change that directly affects readiness and Reach Athena hosts a quarterly podcast highlighting female Airmen and family-centric stories. AETC’s Torch Athena will add to these Athena initiatives with a focus on empowerment through education.

Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS) members are partnering with the Torch Athena team to bring nearly 200 local students to the fly-in event to inform, influence and inspire the next generation of aviators 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.”

The three-day event will include two days of presentations, speaker panels and working groups for officer, enlisted and civilian attendees from across AETC, culminating with a fly-in and Girls in Aviation celebration on day three. A final schedule and registration instructions will be released at a later date. Read more on Torch Athena and the other women’s initiative programs here.