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Women have come a long way in AF

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Herb Hanson
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Command Chief
I attended the kickoff luncheon for Women's History Month Monday and had the privilege of hearing North Carolina Representative Margaret Highsmith Dickson speak about the changes in our society. She explained that her grandfather was speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives when her mother was born in 1919, but women were not even allowed to vote at that time. 

While I wasn't around at that time -- despite what some people might think -- I have been around the Air Force long enough to see how far we have come when it comes to women in uniform. One good example is in sheer numbers. When I enlisted in 1973, women made up just seven percent of the total force. Now that number is almost 20 percent. There were only a few Air Force specialties open for women in the '70s, while today there are only a handful, like combat control and pararescue, that are closed to them. 

It was almost unheard of for a women to hold a leadership position when I was a young Airman. Occasionally you'd see a young female officer as a headquarters section commander, but almost never in a leadership position at the squadron or group commander level. Compare that to Pope today, where we have women like Col. Brenda Bullard commanding the 43rd Medical Group and Lt. Col. Wilma Shively leading the 3rd Aerial Port Squadron, just to name a few. 

I had the honor of flying as a communicator for the White House early in my career and never saw a female pilot or crewmember, while today women work in crew positions in almost every aircraft the Air Force flies. Not only that, but women like Lt. Col. Pollyanna Montgomery, former commander of the 41st Airlift squadron, are leading flying units at all levels. We've gone from seeing women limited to traditional positions in offices or clinics to serving as first sergeants and chiefs today. And if you think this is all ancient history, it was as recent as the mid '80s that the Air Force was limited to having women make up 12 percent of the total manning. 

While women have made great strides in society as a whole, I'm very proud to have served in an organization that has led the way in providing unparalleled opportunities to everyone who serves without regard to sex, race or religion. And if you think I've seen changes during my career, just wait. We aren't done yet! 

I'd like to congratulate Lt. Col. Mary Nachreiner and the rest of the Women's History Month Committee for their hard work on Monday's luncheon, and for the rest of the activities they have planned for this month. It will be a fitting tribute to the women who have brought about these changes and to the ones who are doing it today. I'd also like to thank Master Sgt. Jason Baker, 43rd Civil Engineer Squadron, for his hard work setting up last week's promotion ceremony and ensuring that everybody received the recognition they richly deserved on their special day. Also, thanks to Lt. Col. Pat Frost, Lt. Col. "Tanc" Tancredi and Mr. Frank Laras for their outstanding work with the BRAC Site Activation Task Force Team last week. Their work will pay off as we finalize plans for the upcoming BRAC changes at Pope. 

Please remember to be SAFE, always look out for your WINGMAN, and don't be THAT GUY.