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Women Leading the Way: Leadership joins forces for a Women's History Month Panel

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Chief Master Sgt. Idalia Peele, 21st Space Wing command chief, answers a question as part of a panel of female senior leaders from around the base, during a Women’s History Month event held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on March 9, 2016. Peele was one of the five panel members who discussed her experience as a female leader in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Chief Master Sgt. Idalia Peele, 21st Space Wing command chief, answers a question as part of a panel of female senior leaders from around the base, during a Women’s History Month event held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on March 9, 2016. Peele was one of the five panel members who discussed her experience as a female leader in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – First Lt. Sarah Berheide, 21st Comptroller Squadron deputy flight commander financial analysis, asks a question to a panel of female senior leaders from around the base, during a Women’s History Month event held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on March 9, 2016. Berheide was one of about 70 people from around the base who attended this event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – First Lt. Sarah Berheide, 21st Comptroller Squadron deputy flight commander financial analysis, asks a question to a panel of female senior leaders from around the base, during a Women’s History Month event held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on March 9, 2016. Berheide was one of about 70 people from around the base who attended this event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Col. Troy Endicott, 21st Operations Group commander, introduces a panel of female senior leaders from around the base, during a Women’s History Month event held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on March 9, 2016. The panel discussion is one of several events here which provided an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of Air Force females. (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Col. Troy Endicott, 21st Operations Group commander, introduces a panel of female senior leaders from around the base, during a Women’s History Month event held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on March 9, 2016. The panel discussion is one of several events here which provided an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of Air Force females. (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

A women's leadership panel was held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum hangar March 9 in celebration of Women's History Month.

Five women from Peterson Air Force Base were on the panel: Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, Col. Susan Moran, Col. Cheryl Lewis, Chief Master Sgt. Idalia Peele, and Michelle Linn. This year's Department of Defense theme for the event was "Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government."

Col. Troy Endicott, 21st Operations Group commander, opened the panel with a vignette about his personal experiences with great women leaders who have had an impact on his career.

"My story is, I don't know any different," said Endicott. "My mentors and leaders have all been strong, powerful women."

At an early age, his great aunt, Dr. Ruth Endicott, made a lasting impression on him. She bucked her father's rules and snuck flying lessons before joining the Army Air Corps. As a woman, she could not fight, so she trained as a stenographer where she captured the minutes from the Nuremberg trials during World War II. Dr. Endicott's ambition did not end with the war. "[She] went to medical school and has delivered countless babies and set the vector in our family," said Endicott.

Another impactful woman is Endicott's wife, Tammy, a first lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol. As a nurse practitioner, she spends time giving back to those in need at a free women's health clinic downtown.

Endicott said he has worked under some distinguished women at various stages of his career, to include Col. Lena Cashin, Col. Jen Moore, retired Lt. Gen. Susan Helms Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James.

Another one of his mentors is Armagno, director of Strategic Plans, Programs, Requirements and Analysis at Headquarters Air Force Space Command. She read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution during the event, which spoke to the theme of the event: working to form a more perfect union. She was struck by the theme and credits the excerpt with why she held a seat at the table.

"I don't think of myself as a woman first, I think of myself as an Airman first," said Armagno.

The first question asked the panel what the biggest challenges leaders face.

"Let someone be in charge, let them grow from that, take risks, and make mistakes," said Lewis.

Peele had a different perspective on challenges facing leadership. "You as a leader look around your organization and see if you are providing diversity. We want to make sure we have the best unit and diversity definitely adds value to a unit."

Following the preamble, the audience asked the panel how they would rate the Air Force compared to the civilian sector.

Many spoke to the pay being commensurate with rank, and the new maternity and paternity leave policy extending family time for both genders. The Air Force leads the way in terms of engineering, "we should lead the way," Linn said.

The audience then asked what advice the panel had for working moms.

Many may not know that Peele worked as a single mom most of her career. She advised to not assume everything is OK.

"Make sure you're paying attention and communicate with your family, don't take it for granted," she said.

Moran said she credits her husband and DOD resiliency camps with helping her three children maintain balance in their lives throughout her moves.

Linn on the other hand has maintained residence in Colorado Springs for the last 20 years with her husband, a retired officer. She emphasized team work and a backup plan for childcare, and not to be reliant solely on the Child Development Center, childcare is a team effort.

As essential as it can be to have proper childcare, having a mentor can be also be essential to doing well at work, said the panel. Getting recognized sometimes takes a team. Each member of the panel highlighted this by sharing a piece of advice from a mentor, which stuck throughout their career.

"God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason," said Moran, emphasizing listening over speaking.

Armagno spoke about making yourself indispensable to your unit by volunteering, participating, joining clubs, and taking on additional duties.

Peele said she has both female and male mentors who have provided invaluable feedback to her as she moved throughout her career. Those who have had the greatest impact are the ones who tell her how to improve. Linn agreed in that feedback from a supervisor or mentor is a gift, and one in which you should seek out.

As the event wrapped up, the panel took one more question from a Girl Scout in attendance.

"Miss General," she asked. "I heard that you saw rockets launch, what was that like?"

"It was awesome," Armagno said. "The mission that you can touch, and see, and hear, and feel the building shake - is launching rockets. It's absolutely awesome. You should go do it."

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