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70th ISRW Code Athena strives to reduce female and family-centric barriers to readiness

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  • 70th ISRW Public Affairs
Members from 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing Code Athena 2023 initiative team met with leadership May 24, to provide recommendations that may reduce or eliminate challenges faced by Airmen and families.

Code Athena, which was modeled after Air Combat Command’s Sword Athena, is a working group of volunteers that come together to identify, tackle, and propose solutions to female and family-centric barriers to readiness. 

“Female and family-centric issues are an important topic that is now moving to the forefront of discussions at all levels,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Sarah Zimmerman, U.S. Cyber Command J2 deputy chief of staff and 70th ISRW Code Athena lead. “[We launched Code Athena] to bring together all the geographically separated units to workshop solutions to problems and barriers affecting Airmen within the wing. But we aren’t just making change, we’re creating change makers, and we intend to show everyone that they all have a voice.”

There are four lines of effort during this year’s initiative: 1) career progression and development, 2) childcare, 3) GSU Air Force-centric challenges, and 4) resources for readiness. Code Athena developed mission assurance working groups (MAWG) for each focus area to strategize ways to address concerns.

“We tried to find the issues that are being experienced by the most people that have the widest scope and it’s something that we can actually tackle at the wing,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Macey Valentine, 707th ISR Group Self-Assessments Program Manager noncommissioned officer in charge and Code Athena action officer. “We recognize that there are a lot of problems that people at the wing have that are big Air Force problems and we can push those problems further up, but it won’t be something necessarily that Code Athena addresses. So, these topics are ones that we’ve determined are being experienced at the wing and can be [managed at our] level.”

The 70th ISRW has units across 28 worldwide locations. It can be beneficial to include Airmen from these organizations to ensure Code Athena accurately captures wing-wide problems and solutions.

“I think it is imperative that members of the wing’s GSUs are involved in these efforts,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Emily Thibert, 35th Intelligence Squadron Cyber Threats deputy operations chief, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and a MAWG chair. “There are issues that we navigate, like limited access to leadership, resources, and time, that can directly impact our readiness. If we are not there to advocate for the same attention and concern for our challenges, then it is easy for people co-located to forget or not realize at all that we must operate differently than their own units.”

Some of the MAWGs consisted of Airmen working across six different time zones, which was challenging. However, virtual meetings were held throughout this process to help guide Airmen and ensure Code Athena’s focus does not shift.

“I have greatly enjoyed getting to interact and learn from my counterparts within my MAWG, participants of other MAWGs, and the leadership team,” said Thibert. “It is truly an experience that allows people of all ranks to come together and look for solutions to the most pressing challenges we face as service members.
“I found I was surrounded by incredibly intelligent and driven people who were dedicated to finding the best solutions to benefit the most wing members. It was a humbling experience for which I am incredibly grateful.”

The Code Athena team presented solutions to wing leadership such as implementing more additional duty first sergeants and providing resources to increase childcare availability for military families.

Valentine added that she hopes to see these solutions come to fruition to positively impact Airmen and families and get to a point where initiatives such as Code Athena are no longer needed.

“I guess a short-term goal would be to show that we can actually solve these problems, it’s not just talking about them,” said Valentine. “Big picture, we want to be put out of business right, just like any kind of initiative teams, the end goal is to make us obsolete.”

For more information about Code Athena, contact the team via email at