ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Women in the U.S. have worked for decades to gain various rights and improve their quality of life.
The Team Robins Women’s Initiative Team, established at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, in mid-2020, is the Women’s Employee Resource Group, an organization of volunteers who are working to improve the quality of life for female employees through advocacy, mentorship and fellowship.
Maj. Gloria Ramirez-Hickey, advocacy and initiative lead at Robins, said the group is working to tackle the issues that matter most to women at the installation.
“We would like to identify and address barriers that women encounter while employed at Robins,” she said. “We also want to enrich and support women of Robins by offering mentorship opportunities and introducing them to a network who is committed to identifying, addressing, and promoting women’s issues.”
The WIT will host an informational event to educate the base community about the group’s purpose and goals March 2 at 4 p.m. at the Heritage Club.
The group itself is a Total Force effort, comprised of volunteers from across Team Robins in active duty, guard and civilian capacities. They hold themselves to the mission of propelling and sustaining diversity through advocacy for women’s issues while fostering and connecting a community of leaders, and affecting positive policy change at the base level and above.
Since June, the WIT has hosted mentorship groups on base in partnership with Women Who Empower Women, a group established at Robins to provide education, facilitate change, and provide candid mentorship and information to women at the base. The WERG has also provided opportunities for fellowship over the past several months through meet-and-greets, speed-mentoring and ice cream socials.
In addition to mentorship and fellowship, advocating is a major part of the group’s mission. One focus for the group is the needs of pregnant Airmen.
To advocate for pregnant Airmen, the WIT has developed a loan locker for maternity uniforms and “A Flyer’s Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum,” available on the USAF Connect App under the Robins Air Force Base instance and the Robins website at https://www.robins.af.mil/Portals/59/documents/general_info/Flyers%20Guide%20to%20Pregnancy%20and%20Postpartum%20CAO%206%20JAN%202022.pdf.
“The intent of the loan locker is to assist pregnant military members in acquiring maternity uniforms which can be difficult to find at Army and Air Force Exchange Services Military Clothing Store or may be limited to specialty flight duty uniforms for female aviators who would like to continue to fly while pregnant,” she said. “A member can go the loan locker and sign out the item she needs.”
Ramirez-Hickey said the flyer’s guide includes information such as how to acquire specialty aviator training during pregnancy, how to meet post-pregnancy lactation requirements on an aircraft, as well as other related topics.
The major said changes in Air Force policy led the WIT to make things even better for lactating mothers.
“Recently, the Air Force has changed the requirements with the release of Air Force Instruction 36-3013, Lactation Rooms and Breast Milk Storage For Nursing Mothers, in August 2021, which makes it clear that the room should meet a specified criteria,” she said. “The directive also states that all units will have a lactation room or one will be available within the same building, complex or in buildings that have entrances within 100 feet from the work area.
“For women who are lactating, there is an immediate and desperate need for a room after returning from their post-partum time off in order to continue to feed their baby,” Ramirez-Hickey said. “This can lead to stress about finding a room or requesting that a room be set up in their work area, which in turn affects production of breast milk.”
Lactation rooms are rooms where new mothers who are breast-feeding can go and have a private clean space to express milk. For years, Air Force regulations have not clearly defined the lactation room standards, so mothers had to express in their cars, in the bathroom or locker room, or in a shared office, which lent itself to privacy concerns.
A lactation room map is available on the Air Force Materiel Command portal. Lactating mothers must request access to the page through the site’s administrators.
“On this map, a mother can log in to see whether there are rooms and whether they are available for use,” Ramirez-Hickey said.
The WIT has released the Robins Lactation Room Map, which allows lactating Airmen to view the 47 lactation rooms at the base, showing each one’s status.
While the WIT’s current focus has been on local women’s issues, Ramirez-Hickey said the group plans to partner with the local community to address initiatives concerning women’s health and childcare.
Ramirez-Hickey said membership in the group is open to any individual at Robins regardless of gender, rank, organization or military affiliation.
“The WIT is open to anyone, because we know that allies can be of any gender,” she said. “An example of this was seen with the Air Force hair standard where Master Sgt. Jonathan Lind, co-chair of the Mental Health Working Group, founded the Warrior in Braids Project to develop and propose change to the women’s hair standards based on health problems relating to buns, which he saw in women in his workspace.
“His alliance and partnership with the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team was the catalyst for change in the hair regulation,” Ramirez-Hickey said. “We want to ensure we are inclusive to any member who may be unaware of barriers that women face or may have seen issues women face and want to be part of the solution.”
For more information on the WIT, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.