Women’s History Month: Next Gen Inspiration

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adam Goodly
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The 909th Air Refueling Squadron and the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, conducted an all-female flight from Kadena Air Base to McConnell Air Force Base to commemorate Women’s History Month.

The KC-135 Stratotanker crew flew on a routine mission for a tail-swap, which involves exchanging one KC-135 for another so that the aircraft from Kadena can receive maintenance stateside. The team flew from Kadena to McConnell and then to Fairchild AFB, Washington, before heading back to Kadena, thus completing the 909th’s first all-female, multi-day trip.

“It is an incredible honor to be following in the footsteps of the many women who have helped shape our current society,” said Capt Jessica Wallander, KC-135 pilot. “Not only are we able to pay tribute to them through this flight but we are also able to continue their legacy by providing the next generation females with inspiration to break barriers and overcome obstacles.”

Inspiring and breaking barriers is nothing new for the Air Force and the women who serve in it. In 2020, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass became the first female in history to serve as the highest ranking noncommissioned member of a military branch. Further back in time, the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) paved the way for future women in the armed forces through their work testing aircraft and training pilots during World War II to help offset the lack of male pilots on the home front.

To honor the women who have served before them and to inspire younger generations of females to do the same, the flight crew met with local Girl Scout Troop 41437 near McConnell, where they spoke to the girls about their profession and what it took for them to achieve their successes.

“As a prior Girl Scout, I spent many hours in troop meetings as a young girl looking up to, and learning from, incredible role models,” said Capt Alexis Pells, KC-135 pilot. “It was truly moving to be on the other side, hopefully providing that inspiration for the next generation.”

According to the Department of Defense’s most recent Demographics Report, 17.2% of Active Duty members are female. When combining Enlisted and Officer members, the Air Force has the most significant percentage of female Active Duty members out of any other military branch with 21.1%.

“I take every opportunity to be able to showcase women in unique career fields in the hopes that one day it is common for those career fields to be more diverse,” said Wallander. “If I could give one piece of advice to women who want to join the Air Force, it would be to explore all options. Don’t let external pressures guide you into perceived expectations. Keep all of your doors open because you never know what you’ll end up trying and thoroughly enjoying.”