AAFB Women of the Wing reflect on heritage, experience

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

The Air Force’s history is filled with bold female Airmen who have challenged the standards and dared to fly, fight and win. Female service members have continued to break barriers and make history since the Air Force became its own branch of service in 1947.

For the month of March, women warriors from across the 97th Air Mobility Wing, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., shared and reflected on the importance of the heritage behind Women’s History Month.

“Women’s history month is an important time to remember all the hardworking women who have helped advance women’s rights, not only in the military, but in our country as a whole,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kaylyn Leibrand, a pilot for the KC-46 Pegasus assigned to the 56th Air Refueling Squadron. “When I think about it, it is hard to believe that women have been flying since the early 1900’s. However, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that women were actually allowed to fly combat aircraft. The fact that I get to experience this in my lifetime, something this monumental, is truly amazing.”

In 1948, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law. This act allowed women to serve full, permanent and equal members in all branches of the U.S. military.

According the U.S. Air Force Personnel Center’s 2020 Military Demographics Survey, 20.9 percent of the Air Force is comprised of women. Out of that 20.9 percent, 20.6 percent women are enlisted and 21.9 percent serve as commissioned officers. Since women were allowed to join the Air Force, statistics have shown that number rapidly increasing.

“Being a woman in the Air Force puts you in the minority, but makes you a stronger person at the same time,” said Tech. Sgt. Melissa Michels, an instructor loadmaster for the C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron. “You become a part of this team where you have to be strong, resilient, rely on one another and fully pursue your goals to succeed in the world’s greatest military.”

As time has passed, women from around the globe have begun fulfilling key roles in today’s military, government and politics. Today the active duty Air Force is comprised of more than 68,000 women.

Women currently make up of 6.5 percent of top ranks out of all branches of the military, filling the roles of key enlisted and commissioned positions including commanders, generals, command chiefs, first sergeants; just to name a few. They continuously work to improve the quality of life, morale and readiness for Airmen across the Air Force.

“One thing I would like to tell women everywhere is that if the thought about joining the military has every crossed your mind, go for it,” said Tech. Sgt. Liahna Childs, a boom operator for the KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 54th Air Refueling Squadron. “The military is not all about the stereotypical thoughts of going to war, it is so much more than that. Everyone’s experience in the military is different, but it could end up being one of the best decisions you’ve ever made, and you’ll never forget.”

As women’s roles throughout society continues to expand, female pioneers continue to push boundaries and make history in and out of the Air Force. Throughout the month of March, outstanding efforts made by women to this country are celebrated and honored, regardless of background, race or ethnicity.

“Diversity brings immense strength and is, in part, one of the reasons we remain the greatest Air Force in the world,” said Lt. Col. Kay Hasson, the 97th Operations Support Squadron commander. “Women’s History Month signifies the efforts, contributions and sacrifices of those that came before us, paving the way for those that follow. Whether a woman or man, being in the military is incredibly rewarding, especially in Mobility’s Hometown. This is where the future generations of the United States Air Force’s elite aviators pass through the gate.”