Women’s History Month, playing a key role in RPA aviation

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Many people say 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 had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress authorized and requested 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 Clinton, Bush and 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, maintain secured communications capability, command squadrons, fly aircraft and tell the Air Force story.

As we enter March, we celebrate women and their contribution to the defense of our nation. We honor them regardless of backgrounds, nation or creed.

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 it was authorized for women to join.  Since that faithful 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.  Additionally, she serves as a mother raising two children with Lt Col Ted who is also an Air Force commander. 

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

Women like Lt Col Shawna, who broke racial barriers when she became the first black female fighter pilot. She joined the Civil Air Patrol, worked at air shows and earned her private pilot's license. Eventually, she was accepted into the Air Force Academy. She did all of this despite people telling her 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 DOD, there are a total of 60 female military flag officers with 21 of those belonging to the Department of the Air Force, the most from any military branch.

Female Airmen also serve in key enlisted positions to include command chiefs, first sergeants, and Chaplain Assistants to name a few. They continuously improve the quality of life both on and off duty here at the 432nd Wing.

Senior Master Sgt. Christin serves as the only female squadron superintendent as Creech.  She is the chief enlisted advisor for nearly 290 aviation and intelligence Airmen, aviation resource management personnel while integrating Air Force Reserve Command members. Together they provide 24/7/365 combat support to combatant commanders in multiple Areas of Responsibility.  She also served as Creech’s Top III President and Vice President and currently teaches Unmanned Aircraft System courses at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 

Despite the many misconceptions about women serving in today’s military, in a recent statistics release from the Defense Department, women make up 29 percent of all USAF military personnel, 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. Of the 307,001 active duty personnel, 58,785 are women, with 676 female pilots, 288 navigators and 223 air battle managers.

President Barack Obama during a 2015 presidential proclamation 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."