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Biddle ANG base sees future with fresh eyes, new vice commander

A woman in an air force uniform speaks at a podium.

Pennsylvania Air National Guard Col. Rebecca A. Gray, 111th Attack Wing Vice Commander here, addresses her wingmen during an assumption of command ceremony June 13, 2021 to welcome Pennsylvania Air National Guard Col. Deane. E. Thomey, the new commander of 111th Attack Wing at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Gray, a former member of the Georgia National Guard, most recently served as director of equity and inclusion for the Pennsylvania National Guard.(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Wilfredo Acosta)

A woman in an air force uniform speaks at a podium.

Pennsylvania Air National Guard Col. Rebecca A. Gray, 111th Attack Wing Vice Commander here, addresses her wingmen during an assumption of command ceremony June 13, 2021 to welcome Pennsylvania Air National Guard Col. Deane. E. Thomey, the new commander of 111th Attack Wing at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Gray, a former member of the Georgia National Guard, most recently served as director of equity and inclusion for the Pennsylvania National Guard.(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech Sgt. Ted Nichols)

BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Pa. -- A recent Department of Defense study cited that women make up only 20% of officers in the Air National Guard. And of that number, a mere 10% rise to the rank of colonel.

Given those odds, Col. Rebecca Gray, the 111th Attack Wing’s current vice commander, kick started ANG’s vision for diversity—an organizational culture that values diversity and inclusion as highly as personnel strength and readiness— upon taking the position here a few weeks ago.

Joining 111th ATKW Commander Col. Deane Thomey, who officially assumed command in April, Gray is half of the Wing’s brand-new power team leading the commonwealth’s Air Guardsmen.

During Thomey’s assumption of command ceremony in June, he officially introduced Gray as his right-hand woman.

“I said that you Airmen [sic] are one of my top priorities. And to that end, I've picked an ace as our vice wing commander…”

And while this fresh set of eyes can view the past, their efforts are to look forward.

“I am grateful to Col. Thomey for the opportunity to serve as the 111th ATKW vice wing commander,” said Gray, a United States Air Force Academy graduate. “I look forward to supporting his priorities and vision as we move the wing forward.”

As a traditional Guardsman, Gray joins the majority of 111th ATKW personnel serving in a traditional status – meaning, they perform military service for at least 16 hours a month. This paradigm brings certain personnel challenges specific to the Air National Guard.

“Communication has always been a challenge when we have personnel in varied duty statuses working together,” Gray said. “Communication is paramount when we’re looking to progress. And we should always be looking to improve.”

“With the high percentage of traditional Guardsmen here at the Wing, I hope to bring that voice and perspective of the traditional Airmen,” said Gray.

Gray is also motivated to maximize both the potential and impact of traditional Guardsmen by keying in on their varied and individual expertise.

“I’ll be working with Col. Thomey to help ensure that our Guardsmen work in an environment in which they’re able to bring all of their talents to the table,” Said Gray. “Our traditional Guardsmen have a variety of highly-honed skill sets that they can utilize to strengthen our success in accomplishing the mission.”

Last year, a study by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office cited that women face an array of challenges in deciding to end military careers at higher rates than men. Gray’s approach to inclusion through understanding and proactive exchange may help decrease those challenges for the Pennsylvania Airmen who identify as women.

“I’m sensitive to the dynamic because throughout my career I’ve always worked for men.” said Gray. “I am where I am today because those men have leaned in and supported me.”

“So, as the new vice wing commander, and with a fresh set of eyes, I am very much looking forward to working together with Col. Thomey in accomplishing his priorities of operational excellence, people and partnerships.”