Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and other Air Force teams are working to eliminate barriers that limit women’s mission effectiveness. An initiative led by the Women’s Initiatives Team alongside the Athena teams, named after the Greek goddess of war, is focusing on operational-level issues including gear fitment for women and dealing with physiological needs. As the demographics of the force continue to change, these teams are spearheading initiatives like testing new technology for bladder relief and designing uniform changes to cater to all body types.
- The Women’s Initiatives Team and Athena teams are focusing on tackling issues that limit the mission effectiveness of female members of the Air Force, such as personal hygiene and family-related concerns. The Athena teams have been formed within major commands with slightly different names and focuses, but all aimed at improving operational effectiveness.
- Over one-fifth of Active-Duty Airmen are women, and addressing their specific needs is seen as essential, particularly as the Air Force pursues concepts like Agile Combat Employment (ACE), where small teams may need to operate from remote or austere bases for weeks at a time.
- The teams are working to meet basic physiological needs such as toilet paper, pads, tampons, and female fitment equipment for both officers and enlisted members. Lack of female-specific gear could significantly affect their performance.
- The Air Force has begun testing new technology for bladder relief, and teams like ACC’s Sword Athena are working to ensure this equipment reaches all who need it. The teams are also focusing on child care, health care, and recruiting issues.
- The Air Force Uniform Office is set to undertake design and fit testing changes for the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniform, acknowledging that equipment and uniform design should cater to all body types, not just those of men.
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