818th MSAS officer leads Women, Peace, and Security seminar during Exercise JUSTIFIED ACCORD

  • Published
  • By 1st. Lt. Andrea Pangrac
  • 818 Mobility Support Advisory Squadron

During the initial week of academics at Exercise JUSTIFIED ACCORD (JA24), I had the privilege of leading the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) workshop seminar alongside several SETAF-AF Army counterparts. Witnessing the integration of our Partner Nation Gender Advisors and Gender Focal Points with various staff functions during the command post exercise (CPX) of JA24 was truly inspiring. It was remarkable to observe the incorporation of WPS gender perspectives by different staffs during mission analysis brief development, planning, and decision-making processes throughout the exercise's various injects and requests for information, highlighting the significant strides made in implementing WPS initiatives in support of shared security interests on such a large scale during the multinational exercise

Collaborating with the Air cell during the CPX was another enriching experience, as I worked alongside service members from Botswana, Rwanda, Kenya, and the 11th SFAB (UK). Providing French language support throughout JA24 to our francophone Partners from the Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Djibouti was incredibly rewarding since it helped me build rapport with all the participating Partner Nations by bridging communication gaps and really understand different country operations and perspectives. Breaking through language barriers to enable the opportunity for all JA24 participants to effectively communicate, contribute, and participate was a major highlight of my role as an Air Advisor.


As my time at Justified Accord concluded, I was deeply honored to be invited to guest speak at an International Women's Day event by Brigadier Sitienei, the Director of the International Peace Support Training Centre (IPSTC). It was a surreal experience to receive the Director’s Award for my work in WPS and as an Air Advisor during JA24, alongside other distinguished awardees from the United Nations, the Kenyan Defense Force, and other champions. As a young CGO, this was a truly unexpected and once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I had previously highlighted Brigadier Sitienei as a trailblazer for WPS efforts in Kenya and women in the military during a WPS pre-mission spin-up brief I developed for the 818 MSAS JA24 Air Advisor team before departing for Nairobi. Speaking at IPSTC was a privilege beyond words, and I am incredibly blessed and grateful to serve as an Air Advisor in the 818 MSAS.

The theme of the event at IPSTC, "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress," resonated deeply with me. My experience in Kenya would not have been possible without the support of the men and women who invested their time in my development throughout my military journey. From my earliest days of military training at the United States Air Force Academy, Lt Col Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk (USAF ret.) and Dr. Jay Buddhika from the Military & Strategic Studies Department taught me the critical leadership lesson of what it meant to mentor and invest in others. They were unwavering advocates and champions for my independent research as a cadet and as a Cadet Summer Research Program fellow for the USAFA Center of Innovation and Department of Homeland Security. Their mentorship not only in academics but also in leadership has had a lasting impact on my career. They showed me what it meant to be present and supportive in the face of various challenges and uncertainty, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.


Additionally, I had the opportunity to sing and work with enlisted members from the U.S. Air Force Academy Band based out of now Peterson Space Force Base over my four years at USAFA. This was one of my first experiences I had working on a team with our enlisted force and was key to my development as a future officer. It was awesome to be able to provide mission support for memorial services, promotions, retirements, and official functions, together, and through music for the Colorado Springs military community.

Upon commissioning, I was fortunate to have exceptional leaders in my first squadron at the 305th Aerial Port Squadron, Lt Col Kaylee McClean and Maj Daniel Musleve, who championed my growth journey as a butter bar, trusting me to lead during Operation ALLIES REFUGE & ALLIES WELCOME, as well as with the onboard and bed down efforts for the KC-46 at McGuire AFB. Their leadership taught me the value of tailoring left and right bounds to allow for personal growth and how to take ownership as leaders in providing course corrective measures as needed. They set the standard for how I choose to empower and advocate for others. Many others, including Col Mary Teeter, Col Mark Szatkowski, Col Scotty Pendley, CMSgt David Lamphere (USAF ret.), CMSgt Timothy Jones (USAF ret.), CMSgt John Yelensky (USAF ret.), CMSgt Dominic Perino (USAF ret.), SMSgt Yulondra Oglesby, MSgt Sean Cyphert, TSgt Robert Sommerfeld, MSgt Amanda Heisel, TSgt Kaycee Clune, SSgt Arnida Acosta, SSgt Andrew McClain, SrA Tirza Lamas, Ms. Nadia Shannon, Mr. Davin Malette, Mr. Jason Bailey, Mr. Matthew Unger, and Mr. Steven Boswel, provided me with opportunities to learn, lead, and grow as an officer, and showed me the ropes to develop my tactical and operational experience during my time in the 305th Maintenance Group, for which I am deeply grateful.

Within the 818 MSAS I have had multiple mentors to include MSgt Dane Kelly, MSgt Sylvia Swindell, and TSgt Ashely Henderson. While MSgt Swindell and TSgt Ashley Henderson have PCS’ed from the squadron, they paved the way in standing up the Women, Peace, & Security (WPS) program and MSgt Kelly has been an amazing logistics mentor in supply chain management. All three individuals have epitomized the Officer-Enlisted working relationship that makes coming to work every single day worth it. TSgt Henderson participated in JUSTIFIED ACCORD last year in 2023 and her work made the incorporation of a WPS workshop seminar possible during JA24, identifying the need for participants to understand what WPS is and what it actually means in the context of operations in support of shared international security objectives.

I owe many thanks to Maj Glenn Power, our Team Lead and lead planner for JA24 from the 818 MSAS, who championed bringing me to JA24 and has advocated for Women, Peace, & Security within the 621 CRW. He assigned me my responsibilities at JA24 and entrusted me to execute as I saw fit, providing me the autonomy to lead and integrate into all facets of the exercise where needed and opportunity allowed while also being a sounding board and mentor. His leadership, operational experience and perspectives as a seasoned aviator and exercise planner helped shaped most, if not all of the successes we had as Air Advisors at JA24 with the flexibility for us to lean in and not be afraid to fail forward.

 Current and past 818 MSAS leadership, Lt Col Philemon Sakamoto (818 MSAS/CC), Lt Col Daniel Rowland (818 MSAS/DO), and Lt Col Ryan McCaughan (former 818 MSAS/CC), have been relentless advocates for Women, Peace, & Security within the Air Advisor enterprise. Their advocacy has propelled our unit's progress in the tactical implementation of WPS initiatives and DoD lines of effort at the unit level.




Excerpts from Lt Pangrac’s remarks at the International Peace Support Training Centre:

“One is never too young or too junior in rank or too inexperienced or too passionate to invest in others and stick up for what is right.”


“And what I learned was that in order to be a champion for others, I needed to be very strategic and very intentional in my efforts in doing so.”


“In order to be brought to the table, you have to really discern who are your champions and whose minds may take a little extra time to convince about your cause.”


“There will always be people who think that you do not deserve X, Y, Z or that you don’t belong. There will always be people who think your contributions are not worthy . And you cannot control what other people think but you can control what you do and how you respond.”


“Life is simply just too short to actively expend energy to gatekeep and withhold information or opportunities from others. See who you can bring to the table and remember the times when someone else brought you to the table. Because once you are there, you can begin to break bread, share ideas up and down and across the table. And by no means is it always easy to get there but when you are there, own it.”


“A leader is one who uses their means and resources—along with the trust of those of whom they are leading—to obtain a specified objective or goal. But a great leader is one who will have the courage to act, one who will not only own, but take responsibility for all their actions through the good times and the bad, for better and for worse. We all can point fingers, but why not end all this finger pointing and take charge? Why not take charge of our fates and take charge of our souls via submission, submission to a commitment that will set us free, a commitment made to ourselves, for ourselves. It is a mere truth of ownership to ourselves first, a truth that enables the freedom of our minds to ultimately find it in ourselves to face ourselves. Once we find that truth and commitment, only then can we assume the position to lead.”