WASHINGTON (AFNS) —
Air Force personnel took top honors in four separate categories Oct. 3 in the annual Advocacy Excellence competition sponsored by the non-partisan organization Women in Government Relations.
Major Sam Sliney, Air Force judge advocate, shortlisted for “Advocate on the Rise” award; a group of six people linked to the Air Force Women’s Initiatives team – Major Megan Biles, Major Alea Nadeem, Christy Nolta, Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, Jessica Ruttenber and Sliney – won top honors in the “Women Serving Women” campaign; Air Force Academy instructor Major Melissa Hemphill won the “Controversial Issues Campaign” category; and Biles received the “New Volunteer Advocate” award for her work with the Air Force Women’s Initiatives Team.
“We are proud to see our DAF Women’s Initiatives team recognized for their work which strengthens the whole Department,” said Air Force Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones. “DAF is committed to removing barriers to service for all of our teammates – airmen, Guardiansand our civilian workforce – and groups like WIT have led the way in ensuring everyone can serve to their full potential.
The Washington-based company Women in Government Relations has presented the awards annually since 2013. According to the organization, the effort was designed “to coincide with the first conference of professional women in advocacy. The intent of the awards is to spotlight everyday advocates who are dedicated to representing their issue, cause, or organization in the public policy arena.
While individuals have been recognized for their work, the effort that connects them in many cases is the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team. The Women’s Initiatives team has a broad portfolio but a specific focus – identify and remove barriers that prevent women in the service from reaching their full potential and achieve fulfilling careers and suggest policy changes to achieve these goals. Members of WIT’s Specialized Women’s Health Care Programs, for example, have been at the forefront of efforts to change the Air Force’s health care system in ways that will strengthen the care provided to women. women in the Total Force.
In the notation accompanying Sliney’s award, for example, the judges noted her advocacy “to ensure the USAF has inclusive policies for women.””
“She worked for three years to change USAF and DoD policies regarding the shipment of breast milk for female service members,” the notation reads. “The The Secretary of Defense passed her proposal in April 2022 and servicewomen are now reimbursed for sending breast milk when they travel. Sam not only got this for military women, but also for civilian women who are employed by the DoD. Sam stood out for her perseverance and determination to see this policy changed.
In justifying its selection of the six-woman team that won the Women Serving Women Campaign award, the judges said, “The Women’s Initiatives team broke down legacy and outdated political barriers to serving women, increasing the preparation, recruitment and retention of women in the service.”
hemphill was praised by Women in Government Relations for her work advocating for legislation that removed the ban on USAFA cadets staying in school if they became parents.
Legislation known as the Cadets Act states that a cadet cannot be forced to give up a child, cannot be expelled after becoming a parent and allows the student to take leave up to a year before returning to the Academy.
The language was incorporated into the massive annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act 2022, which has been signed into law.
Finally, Biles’ selection for the Volunteer Advocate award was based on “her work with the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team, which resulted in the passage of several bills removing barriers for women in the army.
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