Security Forces Spotlight: Women’s History Month
Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Women’s History Month stems from International Women’s Day, which the United Nations began observing in 1975, “to recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.”

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History week for the United States. The National Women’s History Project petitioned to expand the event to the entire month of March six years later.

Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

Before the advent of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, women worked alongside official military members without legal protection, medical care, and benefits. In 1941, Congress authorized the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).

Spurred by the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, over 35,000 women applied for less 1,000 positions within the WAAC. Women initially served as clerks, typists, drivers, cooks, and unit cadre, but gradually, the Army realized women could fulfill more versatile roles.

While this was a step in the right direction, women were paid less than their male counterparts and lacked the same benefits.

To combat the decline in recruiting efforts, bills were introduced and approved in Congress dropping the “auxiliary” status of the WAAC and allowing women to receive all of the rank, privileges, and benefits of their male counterparts.

Women continue to break down barriers and take on challenging assignments, demonstrating not only that they belong, but that they can lead fellow Airmen.

In 2019, 1st Lt. Chelsey Hibsch was the first Air Force female Airman to earn the Army Ranger Tab. 1st Lt. Chelsey Hibsch, along with her classmates, underwent rigorous tasks, challenging themselves mentally and physically, testing their ability to persevere despite adversity.

Often known as the one of the Army’s toughest courses, Ranger school seeks to develop proficiency in small unit tactics and combat leadership.

Women in the Air Force

During WWII, female Airmen served as weather forecasters and observers, electrical specialists, sheet metal workers, link trainer instructors, control tower specialists, airplane mechanics, photo-laboratory technicians and photo interpreters.

The Air Force also created two female flying units, which were allowed to fly stateside assignments.

More than 1,000 women were trained on every aircraft in the Army’s arsenal, flying gunnery targets, transporting equipment and personnel, and flight-testing repaired aircrafts. President Jimmy Carter granted military status to the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots in 1977.

Retired Air National Guard Brigadier General Linda McTague joined the Air Force in 1981 before women could fly combat aircraft.

Eager to fly, McTague flew operational support aircraft, working her way to the command position of the District of Columbia Air National Guard’s 201st Airlift Squadron in 1997.

In 2003, McTague took command of the D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing, including the 121st Fighter Squadron and her previous squadron, the 201st Airlift Squadron.

While McTague never viewed herself as a “pioneer”, she paved the way for women to follow not only in her footsteps but pursue careers in other areas of the Air Force.

Women in Security Forces

Women were able to enter the law enforcement specialist training for the first time in 1971.

Today, females make up 21.3% of the Air Force population, which 22.6% serving as officers and 20.9% serving in the enlisted corps. Senior leaders are actively looking at how to reduce barriers and increase retention, progression, and development. Female Defenders have numerous prospects exciting opportunities available to them. The Director of Security Forces created the Female Defender Initiative which aims to improve retention, progression, and development within the Career Field.

In 2018, Senior Airman Jessica Ortiz-Villa became the first woman in Air Force Global Strike Command to become a Raven. Ravens are specially trained security forces personnel who provide security for aircraft that travel through high threat areas.

Ravens are trained at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, covering cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, airfield survey techniques, explosive ordinance awareness, and aircraft searches.

Security Forces has a new female Career Field Manager, Ms. Kay Rodgers.

To find out more about the critical work that Security Forces does, visit the website. Follow us on @afdefenders or to stay up to date!

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