Defending others’ voice, her reason why

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Aubree Owens
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

“Look around the room and see how many people look like you.”

For the past seven years, Senior Master Sgt. Jeannette Warr has been in Equal Opportunity, now serving as the 36th Wing Equal Opportunity director, however, that’s not where she started her Air Force journey.

Warr came in as open general in 2004, not knowing what job she’d receive when entering the Air Force. When recollecting her job selection, Warr stated, security forces choose her.

“Being exposed to the ‘SecFo’ world, I liked the challenges and different missions I had the opportunity to be a part of or lead,” Warr said. “But it was around my third year that I was struggling and trying to determine if I was going to stay in the military or get out. I was still learning the security forces culture, trying to navigate it so at that point, I was kind of like, you know, I'm ready to go.”

However, Warr met a mentor who was soon to retire that asked her a question that still resonates with her all these years later and has shaped her mindset and overall Air Force career.

“He told me, look around and see how many people look like you,” she shared. “At first I didn't really understand what that that meant, and then he rephrased the question, look around and tell me how many female defenders are in our squadron. I looked around at the squadron with about 300 defenders in the room and only about 10% were female.”

She realized something during that interaction that she never fully taken in before. At that point in time, there was no female representation at any level within the security forces career field.

Her mentor then asked her, “Do you want to be one of those people that make that change and show the rest of the female defenders that we can make it to this [leadership] point?”

After taking it all in, she decided in that moment that she would take the charge. She would be that change for her career field, for the Air Force, and for herself. Taking the charge, she continued on with her career, mentoring and guiding fellow defenders on the way – striving for the change she knew she could create.

In 2013, Warr deployed to Saudi Arabia and for the first time she met a female chief master sergeant in the security forces. That moment meant something to her; it meant her goal of being a chief defender was achievable. She started making strides to reach the ranks of senior leadership and be an inspiration for other females in security forces, however, the Air Force had other plans for her.

“I was forced out of my career field,” said Warr.

In 2014, there was an overage of technical sergeants within security forces; having been that rank, Warr was 1 of 90 defenders who received a different career through the Non-commissioned officer Retraining Program that year.

“When they told me I had to choose a different job, I was devastated,” Warr said. “But, out of the four jobs they offered, I chose to try Equal Opportunity because I felt like I already embodied that mentality and it was something I was working towards for security forces anyways.”

Fast forward seven years, Warr has been a part of three EO offices, supporting thousands of Airmen and sister service and joint members alike. She started as a new EO specialist at the rank of technical sergeant and now is a director of an office for the entire wing.

Although she is not in the daily grind with defenders anymore, as an EO director Warr is able to embed during commander calls, host trainings and teach squadron positive communication techniques while building trust with one another, and most importantly be known on the base so she can help those who need it.

“I think we [Equal Opportunity] are an agency to give the voice to people that feel like they don't have a voice,” said Warr. “People don't come to us when they're happy. They come to us when they're at their darkest, lowest point. So being able to be that safe haven and voice for somebody that doesn't feel like they have one and that means so much to me.”

As someone who once wanted to be a changing force within security forces, now Warr has the chance to be a changing force for not just one squadron, but an entire installation.

“Our office might not be the agency that they need at that point of time. They might need IG (Inspector General) services, VVA (volunteer victim advocate) or SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response). But no matter what they need, I'd want them to know that they have a place to sit down across the table from a person that cares to find them the resource that they need or help guide them in whatever situation that they're going through,” she stated.

Although Warr’s goal of being a chief master sergeant in security forces will not come to fruition, the meaning behind the goal is already achieved. Being a part of the top 2% of the Air Force enlisted ranks, a woman senior non-commissioned officer, a single parent and an advocate for anyone that needs help defending their voice, Warr accepted the charge and has accomplished her goal.