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Women Take Control

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Colleen Coulthard
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

In honor of Women's History Month, the 337th Air Control Squadron and the 81st ACS executed an all-female Air Battle Manager (ABM) Control Event at Tyndall Air Force Base, the first of its kind between the two agencies. The nine women in charge ensured the air space, and fighter pilots were safely and effectively protected.


Although the largely male-dominated ABM career field rarely has an all-female crew on both sides of the airfield, the 337th ACS and 81st ACS were able to pull it off. 


“Women in our career field would not have gotten to where we are if it hadn’t been for the women who came before us and the men who supported full integration and equality,” said 2nd Lt. Brittnie Wedel, ABM instructor and director of staff at the 337th ACS. “The true celebration to me is that I can walk onto our control floor at any time of day and be treated as an equal, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or religious views.”


The idea to bring an all-women team together got its start in 2021, and although the pandemic slowed that plan down, nothing could stop U.S. Air Force Capt. Caitlin Bunzel and Staff Sgt. Sheridan Jones. 


“I volunteered to help set up this event to recognize the contributions women in the military make and for them to receive the recognition they deserve in a primarily male-dominated career field,'' said Jones, ACS instructor weapons technician. “Women are not usually thought about when it comes to aviation, and hopefully, this event will change that.” 


The women who managed the airspace began their mission with a training, and physical readiness check by the squadron aviation resource manager before entering into an intelligence brief. From there they coordinated communication with the 81st ACS ABMs representing ‘blue air,’  the good guys, during the simulated mission. After a 30-minute analysis of the airspace, the team launched into the two and a half hour mission. 


“As ABMs we take command and control of the aircraft within our area of responsibility, meaning we are responsible for the safety of the aircraft, integrity of the airspace, and overall tactical control,'' said Wedel. “In this mission, we were supporting whatever training outcomes the pilots needed, specifically providing tactical information to the pilots in a timely manner.” 


No matter the position, our women warriors have always played important roles in the military; it was only after years of advocacy, service, and instrumental acts of congress that female service members  received  the same recognition, benefits and opportunities as their male counterparts. 


“We both think it’s really important to step up and facilitate an event for both the young Airmen and students to see in order to help showcase the importance and impact of females in this career field,” said Bunzel, large force employment officer in charge of the mission and instructor ABM at the 337th ACS.


This event highlighted the innovative efforts of female ABMs and showcased interoperability required in our modern-day Air Force. Equality and innovation is at the forefront of today’s Air Force and acts by removing barriers and incorporating mutual respect in support of national security and readiness. 

“Usually events like this are a single crew on a single aircraft, this event was much bigger,” said Lt. Col. Steve Wyatt 81st Air Control Squadron commander. “In 35 years of service I have never seen an effort spanning this many organizations.”


 This mission synchronized all women crews/participation from: 

-          10 AFSCs

-          8 offices (WETSTONE, DOGHOUSE, 325 OSS/IN, 325 OSS/WX, 325 OSS/RAPCON & Tower, 325 FW/PA, 33 FW/PA, 96 OSS/ERCF)

-          6 Squadrons (81 ACS, 337 ACS, 325 OSS, 325 FW, 33 FW, 96 OSS)

-          4 Wings (53 WG, 325 FW, 33 FW, 96 TW)

-          3 MAJCOMs (ACC, AETC, AFMC) 

-          2 Bases (Tyndall, Eglin)


This article was updated to reflect all parties involved.