EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Behind every successful military operation stands thorough mission planning backed by top-notch intelligence.
The 354th Fighter Wing’s woman-led intelligence team is always on hand to provide decision-level information and mission planning support for the wing’s two fighter squadrons in order to present fifth-generation operations across the U.S. Pacific Air Forces.
“I think my favorite part is the fact that we are so close to the mission, which is the point of the Air Force: to provide airpower,” said Maj. Cameron Berlin, 354th Operations Support Squadron senior intel officer. “We are intrinsically ingrained in that, so we enable the pilots to project airpower and do it safely and return home to their families.”
Berlin’s intel team, whose members are distributed across multiple squadrons within the 354th Operations Group, advises on everything from mission planning to after-effects assessment. They work closely with decision makers from both fighter squadrons on base as well as the 18th Aggressors Squadron and the 353rd Combat Training Squadron, and influence decisions made by senior officers at major and combatant commands. The team also happens to have more women than average in key positions, which highlights the growing diversity of today’s force.
“Right now in the 354th OSS specifically, we have a pretty solid mix of females and males and a good, diverse team,” said Berlin. “I would say that diversity has allowed us to be stronger because then it's not so one-sided, not everyone is so alike; we have a good mix of people. We have females in leadership roles throughout our teams across the base. We have a captain and a lieutenant leading intel support directly to the F-35 missions that are being levied by three- and four-star generals. Also, we have a female weapons officer in charge of training all of our Airmen as well as leading the charge with Agile Combat Employment and Dynamic Force Employment going forward. And then I'm leading the team.”
March is Women’s History Month, an observance that aims to highlight women’s contributions to events in history and contemporary society. Though the active duty population is approximately 79 percent male, Berlin doesn’t consider her field to be lacking female representation.
“Even if our career field isn't necessarily male dominated–because we do have quite a bit of females working in intel–oftentimes we’re put in positions where we have to help all of the pilots mission-plan and we are the only female,” explained Berlin. “But if you think about energy, there’s masculine and feminine energy no matter what your sex is. With masculine energy, there are certain traits like being assertive, leading and making decisions. As a woman, I’ve seen some females struggle if they are very feminine and can't step into that masculine energy.
“I think growing up in the south WHM was meaningful because we would look back at the history of how the role of women in America has evolved and we've been able to be more of a player in society to build those diverse teams,” said Berlin. “However, I would also say that I’ve never been at a base where we've really had time to stop and pause and think about what WHM means.”
Senior Airman Alexandra Abney, 354th OSS intelligence target analyst and aspiring pilot, echoed Berlin’s sentiment, explaining that she views WHM as an opportunity to show gratitude to the women who have served before her and made it possible for her and other women today to serve in crucial roles without thinking twice about their gender.
With 11 years of service under her belt, Berlin has witnessed her share of changes to Air Force processes and culture. Though shifts and advancements will persist, she said she is pleased with the progress she has seen so far.
“My overall experience thus far in the Air Force has been very interesting,” said Berlin. “It’s been interesting to watch the progression of the Air Force as they change their culture to be more inclusive, more accepting and more professional, and not make women feel like they are demoralized in any way. I think that has afforded more of an opportunity for some of the girls who are very feminine to feel more accepted. So I think I’ve been able to see a lot of women thrive as the years have gone by due to a more inclusive culture.”