Fresno Air National Guard Base --
In observance of Women’s History Month, we asked four influential women at the 144th Fighter Wing what the month means to them, about challenges they have encountered in their careers, and about mentors who inspire them, either from the past or present. Their responses are below:
Staff Sgt. LoRainna Carter, 144th Maintenance Operations Flight maintenance analyst
This month reminds me to stop and reflect on all the women in my life as well as myself. We as women are living in a time where we are unstoppable, continuously paving new and innovative paths for young women to pursue.
Coming from an eight-year career in maintenance, being a woman in a male-dominated career continues to challenge me and motivate me to be my best version of myself. It has taught me to appreciate my strengths and have grace for my areas of weakness. It’s okay to seek help if I may not be able to pull equipment five times my weight or break loose a torqued nut. As an Airman, I remember my flight chief told me, “Never take ‘no’ as an answer, if it’s a closed door, redirect,” which I didn’t understand then, but throughout my career I have learned to use it as fuel to not let hinderances or certain cultural roles limited by culture or gender ever stop me because I like a challenge.
Many view many women from various careers and walks of life as mentors. From the 144th, Chief Master Sgt. Lauren Williams, Master Sgt. Colleen Dorval, Master Sgt. Alexandria Gursky, Technical Sgt. Adriana Payan, Technical Sgt. Andrea Basile, and Staff Sg.t Jalyssa, Davis-Slocum set such a high standard and hold me accountable to be the best version of myself.
In my personal life, my three best friends, my late mother, and my aunts are all mentors to me. These women are all mothers and businesswomen who are driven by their goals and dreams. All of them are a privilege to know, look towards, and lean on for so many facets of my life. These strong-willed and brilliant women continue to set examples of drive and determination for me. They are all trailblazers for younger women who watch them thrive.
Capt. Jennifer Warren, 144th Comptroller commander
Women’s History Month is a chance to pause and reflect on the positive contributions of women who paved the way before us—those in history who helped to eliminate barriers in the workplace and other areas of society, and those who helped to change the perception that women where “not capable” or “weak.” They helped to change the mindset that women could not be leaders. The courage and strength that was shown by women of the past still resonates with us today. We now have a voice and a seat at the table.
As a woman with a family, it is often assumed that you will not be as dedicated as a male counterpart with a family. Sometimes women in the military must work even harder as leaders to prove they are valuable. A big challenge that many women face is not having strong mentors to guide them as they progress in their careers and become leaders. We are so few, and often our focus is the mission instead of helping to mentor those who aspire to be in our positions in the future.
Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman is a female from history that I view as a mentor. She was the first black female pilot in the world in 1921 and overcame so many obstacles to achieve her dreams. She came from a poor family, was one of 13 children and found success in a time when being a female and being black meant you were not considered intelligent or capable of contributing to society. In the present, I’m not sure that most women could exert the level of strength she did to persevere and remain resilient. She faced rejection from the very beginning of her life, but never let it stop her from "amounting to something!"
Chief Master Sgt. Dawn Gillaspy, 144th Fighter Wing command chief
To me, the timeline tracing the development of Women’s History Month says it all. Celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of women started out as International Women’s Day in 1909, then in 1977 a task force in California created Women’s History Week, and it was official recognized by a congressional resolution declaring the week of March 8, 1981, as National Women’s History Week, it wasn’t until 1987 that congress declared the entire month of March as Women’s History Month. It’s about the perseverance of Women to continue to pursue opportunities and recognition for their accomplishments and contributions not only in the United States but also internationally.
I can honestly say that my career in the military has not been impacted by my gender or sex. I have worked in a career field that is ninety percent male and have never once felt that I did not belong or was not needed. My seat at the table was the same height and posture as the men that I worked with.
Condoleezza Rice was my first thought when I thought about a woman who I view as a mentor. As I thought more on the question, I realized that Pat Summit, famed women’s basketball coach, is one of my most often thought of mentors. She inspired me as a young athlete to compete at the highest level. As I matured, I watched her coach circles around her male counter parts, showing that sex or gender does not matter when you are leading and developing a team.
Col. Marcia Cole, 144th Maintenance Group commander
Women’s History Month to me is a time to reflect on women in history who have blazed the trail for us as a nation. I think of the women behind the great accomplishments of putting the first American into space: Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan. I think of the women’s suffrage movement, giving women the right to vote. Without these women, we would not be where we are today as women nor as a country.
I can say that being a woman has impacted my career. I have faced obstacles because I am woman, but I feel that those obstacles have made me stronger.
My mother is my mentor. She has always been a hard worker and faced adversity throughout her life, but she was able to persevere. She is a retired DoD civilian and had started as a GS-5 secretary in the 1970s and moved up to a GS-12 contract specialist before retiring in 2005, all while raising four children in a time when the woman was the homemaker for the family.