Celebrating Women’s History Month

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
It has been said that “you can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been.” For some, this quote may not mean much, but for the women of the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, who provide the Air Force’s largest remotely piloted aircraft enterprise with support, this statement rings true.

Women’s History Month started as a national celebration in 1981, when Congress authorized the president to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as Women’s History Week.

In 1987, Congress designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.

On a daily basis, these women provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support; maintain both the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper; safeguard control centers; administer medications; file records and maintain secured communications capability. They also command squadrons; fly aircraft and tell the Air Force story.

During March, women and their contributions to national defense are celebrated, regardless of different backgrounds, nations or creeds.

Staff Sgt. Esther Blake was the first female to enlist in the newly formed Air Force on July 8, 1948, on the first hour of the first day women were authorized to join. Since that day, women all over the world have followed in her footsteps.

Airmen like Lt. Col. Mackenzie, who serves as the only female commander at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. She commands 320 men and women of the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, to include two aircraft maintenance units that provide aircraft maintenance needed to sustain global RPA operations.

Women of the 432nd WG serving in command positions, both past and present, have achieved historic milestones while serving their country.

Women like Lt. Col. Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell, who broke racial barriers when she became the first black female fighter pilot, didn’t have an easy road to success. She joined the Civil Air Patrol, worked at air shows and earned her private pilot's license. She was eventually accepted into the U.S. Air Force Academy. She did all of this despite being told there was no such thing as a female fighter pilot. She earned her pilot wings in August 1999.

These women represent the caliber of women serving in today’s officer corps. According to the Defense Department, there are a total of 60 female military flag officers with 21 of those belonging to the Air Force, the most in any military branch.

Female Airmen also serve in key enlisted positions, including command chiefs, first sergeants and chaplain assistants. They continuously work to improve the quality of life for Airmen around the Air Force.

Senior Master Sgt. Christin serves as the only female squadron superintendent at Creech AFB. She is the chief enlisted adviser for nearly 290 aviation and intelligence Airmen and aviation resource management personnel, while integrating Air Force Reserve Command members. Together they provide 24/7 combat support to combatant commanders in multiple areas of responsibility. She also served as Creech AFB’s Top 3 president and vice president, and currently teaches unmanned aircraft system courses at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Despite any misconceptions about women serving in today’s military, in a recent statistics release from the DOD, women make up 29 percent of all Air Force military personnel and 30.5 percent of all civilian personnel, with nearly equal representation in both the officer, 20.3 percent, and enlisted, 18.9 percent, corps.

Of the officers, 55 percent of the female officers are line officers, and 45 percent are non-line officers; and of the 307,001 active-duty personnel, 58,785 are women, with 676 female pilots, 288 navigators and 223 air battle managers.

In a 2015 presidential proclamation, Obama said, "We honor the many patriots who have shaped not only the destinies of other women, but also the direction of our history. Let us resolve to build on their efforts in our own time."