Laughlin Airmen Join inaugural Torch Athena Rally, Fly-In event Published Sept. 29, 2023 By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas -- Airmen from Laughlin AFB proudly participated in the Torch Athena Rally, Fly-In, and Girls in Aviation event held at Tech Port San Antonio from Sept. 19 to 21, 2023. Torch Athena is a dynamic women's initiative program within the Air Education and Training Command (AETC). Its primary mission is to foster camaraderie among Airmen, address critical issues, and promote empowerment through education and connection. "Events such as Torch Athena help to spread awareness about opportunities available to women in the Air Force," said 2nd Lt. Ana Gomezmartinez, 47th Student Squadron student pilot. "It's usually difficult to visualize yourself in a position portrayed mainly by a specific gender or nationality. Highlighting diverse females in all career fields opens up the imagination of what is possible." Sending Airmen to this event aligned with Laughlin Air Force Base's strategic goals focused on effective leadership, mission readiness enhancement, and the cultivation of a workplace culture defined by dignity and respect. Torch Athena plays a crucial role in promoting diversity, inspiring the next generation of aviators and leaders and equipping women within the Air Force with the knowledge and resources they need to excel in their military careers. "The conference consisted of two days listening to accomplished and inspiring leaders, both Air Force and civilian,” said 1st Lt. Chloe Joslin, 47th STUS T-6 Texan II instructor pilot, “and the last day being a static display on the flight line for girls in the local area." The event also provided a unique platform for attendees to glean insights from diverse speakers, including senior leaders, individuals from Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) and Special Warfare professions, seasoned government contractors, accomplished female flyers, and innovative thinkers addressing gender-specific issues. This multifaceted approach to learning and growth set the stage for a transformative experience that challenged preconceived notions and sparked valuable discussions. "I initially expected it to be focused on issues and problems that females face,” said Joslin. “Instead, they changed the perspective and talked about ways to make women in the Air Force more lethal. This meant identifying some female-specific challenges but focusing on how to overcome them and figuratively shed the extra energy spent thinking and facing these problems to better focus on becoming a more effective Air Force. It was about celebrating women in their careers and personal lives and learning from their experiences." Torch Athena, in addition to its primary goals of fostering camaraderie, addressing critical issues and promoting empowerment, also plays a significant role in Air Force recruiting efforts. The three-day event included a final "Girls in Aviation Day" where, after partnering with Air Force Recruiting Service officials, Airmen interacted with approximately 370 local students. This opportunity fostered a space to inspire the next generation of aviators and leaders. "Most of the girls in attendance were between 13 to 17 years of age and still deciding what they wanted to do after high school,” said Joslin. “There were some who were passionate about flying or engineering and so excited to see these planes in person. There were others who, like me, did not have much exposure to the military and aviation life before this. It was so inspiring to see the way their eyes lit up when they learned what you could do and where you could go. One of the moms pulled me aside and said, 'My son has wanted to be a pilot for years. He's a junior in ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), and now my daughter wants to fly.' I'm so glad we're here to show her that girls can do it too!" This event also aimed to inspire the next generation of aviators and leaders. "The most impactful moment for me was hearing how all these successful women were able to excel in their careers while maintaining a healthy family home," said Gomezmartinez. "So often, I hear about the strain on the family unit when both partners are working on their careers. They gave great advice and helped answer my concerns as a future female pilot." For more information on this event and the Torch Athena initiative, visit the official AETC website at aetc.af.mil.