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Women's Leadership Symposium focuses on importance of women's role

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Sylvia Saab)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Sylvia Saab)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force leaders emphasized the importance of women's role in the military at the 2012 Joint Women's Leadership Symposium March 6 here.

The Air Force key-note speakers were Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition military deputy, and Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward, 17th Air Force commander.

Wolfenbarger and Woodward shared their thoughts on women who serve in the military to a crowd of approximately 150 Airmen and civilians during the service specific break-out sessions. Both generals enjoy status as pioneers among women in the Air Force. While Wolfenbarger was recently nominated as the Air Force's first female four-star general, Woodward became the first woman to lead an air campaign in 2011, during Operation Odyssey Dawn.

"The women that are in our Air Force today are hungry for the opportunity to get together and have a chance to talk to others who have come before them and talk peer to peer," Wolfenbarger said.

Before last year's symposium, she thought this would single out women because of their gender and not for working hard and accomplishing the mission, Wolfenbarger realized the annual event actually serves as an encouragement to women to help retain women in the military.

Woodward also provided encouragement, drawing upon her experience in leadership roles to praise the women serving in today's Air Force.

"You are part of the most admired institution in America and are recognized throughout the world as airmen of extraordinary integrity, service and professional excellence," she said during her address. "I've seen you in every corner of the planet defending America's vital national interests."

Women have to balance their responsibilities in the service with those of life and family, Woodward said.

Difficult decisions such as being geographically separated due to mission requirements were among the challenges Woodward and her husband, who is a retired brigadier general, faced.

"We love the Air Force, we love serving in it and we love each other so we had to make choices that a lot of people thought were stupid choices," Woodward said.

Every Airman will be called on to make sacrifices at some point, General Woodward explained, elaborating on a key message she delivered to the Symposium. Ultimately, success and successful leadership are based on trust. This means courage and integrity.

"Always be true to yourselves," Woodward said to the crowd. "Be yourself and be confident in who you are."