Women's Equality Day Celebration at Shaw AFB, SC Published Sept. 19, 2023 By Lt Col Noemi Antedomenico Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Members of Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) celebrated Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 23 at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. A four-woman panel shared stories of their experiences and triumphs over lunch hosted by the 9 AF (AFCENT)’s Diversity Equity Inclusion program and the Equality Working Group. The panel was comprised of Dr. Maria FerrandJohnson, a local mental health provider and 22-year Army veteran; Col. Kristine Smith, 655th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing deputy commander; Earnestine Culler, Department of Veterans Affairs Advocate and Women’s Army Corps veteran; and Andrea Blanchetti, U.S Army Central Command Emergency Management Coordinator and Air Force veteran. Additionally, Colette Jones, 9 AF (AFCENT) material controller and the Equality Working Group’s lyrical poet, performed two poems for the audience. Her poems were entitled “Women, We Honor You” and “We Are At the Mic.” Audience members posed questions to gain insight, perspective, and understanding. One young woman from the group expressed her vulnerability and fears to join the military, while panel members encouraged her to go the distance. More than 75 people attended the event. “Women’s Equality Day isn’t only about women - or just for women. It’s for everyone who works with, works for or leads women. It’s for anyone with a woman in their life who they want to support, lead, mentor or follow. It’s not about making women ‘strong.’ Women are already strong,” said Chief Master Sergeant Kati Grabham, 9 AF (AFCENT) command chief. “Instead, it’s about helping shape the way we see Airmen and how we perceive their strengths.” 9 AF (AFCENT)’s luncheon and panel celebration is one way to commemorate one of the 11 events recognized under the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute’s Cultural Observances. These observances are all formally recognized by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and as established by law, bill or resolution of Congress. Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, 9 AF (AFCENT) commander, directed the standup of the headquarters’ Diversity Equity and Inclusion program in March, 2023. The program supports the Combined Force Air Component Commander’s priority to “Value Everyone, and their Contributions.” By creating a culture of inclusion, those within the command are able to leverage diverse talents to create a strategic advantage for the Air Force, joint and coalition operations.