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News | Jan. 19, 2024

Air Force officer speaks of childhood in Iraq at Wisconsin Air Guard fighter wing

By Master Sgt. Mary Greenwood and Tech. Sgt. Cameron 115th Fighter Wing

Throughout the years, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing has strived to further opportunities and education on member equity.

Now, with the release of the U.S. strategy on Women, Peace, and Security and the creation of a dedicated women’s council known as Women Badgers Breaking Barriers, the 115th Fighter Wing continues to take great leaps forward.

“Women Badgers Breaking Barriers is a special emphasis council inspired by organizations such as the Air Force’s Women’s Initiative Team and Women, Peace, and Security strategy,” said Capt. Christen Bloomfield, the council leader and co-founder of Women Badgers Breaking Barriers and gender focal point for the state of Wisconsin. “Our purpose is to mentor, empower, address issues of the female force, provide professional development, and promote an organizational culture of diversity and inclusivity.”

Since the council was established in 2022, Women Badgers Breaking Barriers has accomplished numerous initiatives — stocking bathrooms with menstrual essentials, highlighting basewide lactation rooms, providing parking spaces for expectant mothers, and establishing mobile lactation tents to be used in deployed environments.

Among many of the initiatives, the council has also hosted several guest speakers to showcase their experiences and how bases like the 115th Fighter Wing are making an impact on the culture of the Air National Guard.

The most recent speaker was Maj. Alea Nadeem, previous chair and active member of the Air Force’s Women’s Initiative Team stationed in Washington D.C. During a Jan. 7 presentation at the fighter wing, Nadeem shared her unique perspective on freedom and resilience from when she was held against her will as a child in Iraq.

“As a result of my experience, I can truly say I know what it’s like not to have freedom...what it’s like to be a second-class citizen in your own country…what it’s like to be taken advantage of in every aspect of your life,” said Nadeem. “This country [the U.S.] fought to get me back…and I am forever grateful that I live under this flag because if I was still in Iraq, who knows where I would be?”

After the emotional speech, Nadeem praised the members of the 115th Fighter Wing for their efforts in moving forward with the state of Wisconsin’s Women, Peace, and Security program.

“Wisconsin is ahead of the game for what you’re doing for Women, Peace, and Security,” Nadeem said. “I think it’s really because of you [the Women Badgers Breaking Barriers council].”

During the presentation, Col. Bart Van Roo, the 115th Fighter Wing commander, spoke on ways that the wing can expand its efforts through local organizations such as Women Badgers Breaking Barriers to make an even greater impact throughout the world.

“We need to look internally first to make sure we're doing everything we can to find ways to get women into the key decision-making processes,” Van Roo said. “By doing it ourselves first and then sharing where we have been successful with our partner nations, we can truly say we are making a difference worldwide.”

A team of Airmen are scheduled to engage with Wisconsin’s partnering nation to assist in promoting the Women, Peace, and Security program in May 2024.

“The Women Badgers Breaking Barriers will continue to develop and bring positive momentum to the wing,” Bloomfield said. “We hope to increase inclusivity and equity for all.”