WADS Airman named ANG winner of 2021 Vaught Visionary Leadership Award

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kimberly D. Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown released his strategic approach entitled “Accelerate Change or Lose” in August 2020.  One of his key factors that will allow the service to accelerate that change is empowered Airmen can solve any problem, a people-first approach. 

According to Brown, “Our Airmen must be multi-capable and adaptable team builders, as well as innovative and courageous problem solvers, and demonstrate value in the diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative. We must develop leaders with the appropriate tools to create and sustain an environment in which all Airmen can reach their full potential, valuing the many aspects of diversity within our Air Force.”

The Western Air Defense Sector’s Maj. Kristina Roberts, 225th Air Defense Squadron air battle manager, is one of those Airmen helping to provide those answers and help foster change and shape the future of an inclusive culture and recognizing the talents women bring to the Air Force.

Roberts was recognized for her exceptional work ethic and care for her teammates recently when she was named the Air National Guard’s 2021 Brigadier General Wilma Vaught Visionary Leadership Award.

This awarded was created in 2012 in honor of Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, which recognizes service members and civilians who have exhibited innovation, commitment and a selfless spirit of service to others while inspiring and significantly improving the integration of and opportunities for women in the Air Force.

Roberts’ impact on the WADS is far reaching.  She was instrumental in the WADS Lean In Circle where she has led and provided mentorship and guidance to over 70 women and brought awareness to over 300 members of the Western Air Defense Sector.

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused so many unit members to suddenly become very separated from each other due to safety measures put in place to ensure the success of the WADS no-fail 24/7 homeland defense mission, she created a way for Lean In Circle members to connect through virtual coffee chats. 

“The virtual coffee chats helped members connect with each other and have a one-on-one virtual sessions,” explained Roberts.  “It was a way to check-in to see how the other person was doing, then at the end of the week we all got together virtually to visit and talk about various concerns and other topics.”

Roberts explained that many good things came out of those sessions to include feedback that she was able to provide to command leadership to keep them involved with what the Airmen were experiencing on an individual level. 

Roberts’ accomplishments also include creating a first ever virtual discussion on racism and diversity that addressed challenging topics and provided a safe space for open discussion.  She advocated for expecting and nursing mothers, researched how lock downs during COVID-19 have impacted postpartum mothers and women in general and provided results to command leadership, and coordinated with DoD support agencies on women’s issues by raising awareness on double blind and blind bias in the military. 

Roberts explained that receiving this award represents Airmen leaning forward for positive change in the military.  “I feel like we are on a cusp of incredible change, charged by individuals who have been empowered by their own experiences and experience of others. We are no longer in the, this is how we always did it mentality, but rather how can we make the military better overall?"

The 225th Air Defense Group commander, Col. Raed D. Gyekis, only has huge accolades for Roberts’ hard work and dedication to the WADS mission and people.  “She has the support of her entire team as well as her leadership’s dedication to fighting for her and her team to get recognized.”