Providing equality to Titans

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

“What gets me up in the morning is part of what drives me throughout my day… my need for improvement.”

These are the words that motivate Master Sgt. Ashley Martin to succeed and help her fellow Airmen.

As the 39th Air Base Wing’s Equal Opportunity director, Martin nurtures an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers that could prevent Air Force members from reaching their highest potential.

“My daughters drive me to want to be better and more successful,” she said. “They watch what I do, how I do it, what I say and how I say it. It drives me to make sure that I am giving them every opportunity to be successful in their lives and to have a positive influence on society.”

Martin’s journey to success in the Air Force was not without adversity along the way. Many of the challenges she faced manifested in the form of prejudgments about women.

“I joined the Air Force as a satellite communications troop, which was a male-dominated career field,” she explained. “Whenever we’d get new people into the shop or I’d move to a new duty location, I had to prove to them I could do my job. I had to prove I could carry my own bags, fix my equipment and even drive.”

Martin overcame these challenges because of supportive supervisors throughout her career who advocated for her. During her 13 years in the Air Force, Martin never faced her challenges alone. The support Martin received molded and motivated her to give back to her fellow Airmen by joining the EO team.

“Once you get into EO, you find out that it is a completely neutral process,” Martin explained. “We approach complaints as a neutral party. My job is to ensure that our Airmen are not treated or made to feel unfairly targeted or harassed in any way. We’re not biased to lean for or against anyone. We’re there to make sure that if there is wrongdoing, EO or commanders can address it to help units move forward.”

EO processes were created to right past wrongdoings, Martin explained. Their policies are set in place to provide equal opportunity and treatment for all members regardless of their race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion or sexual orientation.

“We also do mediations,” Martin added. “Usually, the mediation is used for the civilian side and we look to do settlement agreements. If we go into mediation and come to an agreement, both parties are agreeing to settle the complaint, and it’s a binding contract. If anyone fails to uphold it, then it goes back to the initial stage.”

For military members, EO utilizes a process called facilitation to resolve conflict in work centers to help keep coworkers and supervisors from hindering the mission.

“I think that our processes have helped people,” Martin remarked. “What I notice is that many of the new people that come into my office have been referred by previous clients. To me, this means that units were at least somewhat satisfied with the assistance they received from our office.”

For Airmen whose complaints were heard by Martin, their work environment became more flexible under the tensions of stress and facilitated healthier units.

“I also notice subtle changes in their demeanor when they leave our office in comparison to how they come in,” she added. “Sometimes our Airmen just want to be heard. Once they’ve shared their story, I can see the weight that is lifted.”

Martin enjoys conducting investigations, talking to people and promoting equality. Additionally, she voices the importance of equal opportunity during newcomers’ briefings and commander’s calls.

“She may not even know what impact she has made right now,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Mendez, 39th ABW EO non-commissioned officer in charge. “It might be one of those things we notice only 20 years from now. Someone is going to look at her accomplishments one day and realize her voice touched them and how it changed their lives. Although they may never tell her, I know she is inspiring future female leaders.”

Martin may not be able to measure her impact on the Air Force, Airmen around her know the example she is setting for her daughters and women in the Air Force.