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Women: Building communities, dreams

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFPN) --

Since the beginning of time, women have played an important role in human existence. We are daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, mentors and teachers. 

Mothers can magically heal a “boo-boo” with a kiss and a bandage; they say the right things to mend a broken heart or provide a hug or a shoulder to cry on.

But women are not only emotional, loving creatures.

When American Soldiers were sent to the world’s aid in World War I, women stepped up to the plate to take care of America, rear children, take care of the home -- all while manufacturing and shipping desperately needed items for the war.

Passionate women have also disguised themselves as men in order to be a part of worthy causes, such as Joan of Arc during the French Revolution or Sarah Emma Edmonds (aka Frank Thompson) in the American Civil War.

History is loaded with headlines regarding women making a difference in the world and leaving their mark in the hearts of people forever. My focus is on the Air Force, where many firsts have been recorded in history. According to the March 2002 issue of Airman magazine, the following women made great strides:

-- First woman to cross Atlantic Ocean solo (1932), Amelia Earhart

-- First woman in the Air Force (1948), Staff Sgt. Esther McGowin Blake

-- First woman to break the sound barrier (1953), Jacqueline Cochran

-- First female chief master sergeant (1960), Chief Master Sgt. Grace Peterson

-- First female promoted to general (1971), Brig. Gen. Jeanne Holm

-- First female chaplain (1973), 1st Lt. Lorraine K. Potter 

-- First female accepted into AF Test Pilot School (1974), Capt. Leslie H. Kenne 

-- Women became Basic Military Training Instructors (1975)

-- First female Air Force Academy cadet (1976), Joan Olsen

-- First women (10) graduate Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training, Williams Air Force Base, Ariz. (1977)

-- First Hispanic female graduates AF Academy (1980), Linda Garcia Cubero

-- First secretary of the Air Force (1993), Sheila Widnall

-- First female to fly combat missions (1995), Capt. Martha McSally

-- First female space shuttle commander (1999), Col. Eileen Collins

-- First female sniper school graduate (2001), Senior Airman Jennifer Donaldson

-- First female Aerial Gunner (2003), Airman 1st Class Vanessa Dobos

-- First female Thunderbird pilot (2006), Capt. Nicole Malachowski

Women need not only be recognized and honored for firsts, but should also be commended for their continuing bravery and courage and leadership.

Recently in Iraq, four women helped save a convoy. In another part of Iraq, Capt. LeeAnn Roberts, a coalition military assistance training team leader is the only female out of the 8,000 or so on this particular base. Her job is to train Iraqi recruits to protect their own country.

It’s amazing how far humans have come since the beginning of time, yet we still have so far to go. I doubt there will ever be a day when there will no longer be a “first” record, regardless of age, gender, religion, race or ethnicity. So I encourage each and everyone of you -- man or woman, young or old -- to strive for your dreams, accomplish your goals and be builders of communities and dreams!

Engage

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