BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Over the past few decades, female service members have surpassed many obstacles, achieved new heights and made the force stronger. As the U.S. Air Force places a focus on how the critical contributions of a multi-faceted, uniformed service are instrumental to innovation, it continues to fortify its greatest asset: the people.
Rewind to any major conflict before World War II, women were limited to clerical and nursing positions, with limits on the rank they could achieve. On July 8, 1948, the first woman enlisted in the Women’s Air Force. However, in 1976, women were finally accepted into the Air Force Academy and could enlist on the same basis as men.
While significant progress has been made, the USAF, and newly created U.S. Space Force, continues to look for ways to improve the quality of life for its members. One of the important impacts of having an increasingly diverse force is inspiring the next generation of women to serve.
“I hope to inspire more women to serve in the military through my participation in the Buckley Women’s Initiative Team, which seeks to improve the culture and benefits for women in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force. I hope these improvements inspire more women to serve and increase the representation of women in the military,” said 1st Lt. Heather McCray, a member of the Commander’s Action Group.
Today, even more barriers have been removed with service opportunities. There are female fighter pilots and multiple women going through the special operations pipelines.
“I am proud to serve alongside my female teammates,” said Col. Brian Chellgren, acting Buckley Garrison commander. “My hope is for all of our children to see those in uniform and know that they aren’t limited, that we have our first female Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and know that one day they could become the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force or Chief of Space Operations.”
The product of removing barriers based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and other identities is the retention of motivated teammates with the drive for excellence and vision for a better tomorrow. Having the discussion with members of all levels has been key to this progress.
“The continued conversations and advocacy by our senior leaders, whether male or female, have really brought our issues to the forefront. The recent changes to AFI 36-2903, allowing for women to wear their hair in ponytails and braids, is considered by the BWIT and me personally to be a great benefit for women’s health and diverse hair styles,” said McCray.
Quality of life changes like these may seem small to some, but they represent attention being given to those who need it, which encourages women to consider joining the Air Force, as well as deciding to re-enlist.
“In the future, the BWIT aims to advocate for 24-hour childcare services, to assist all units on base in establishing lactation rooms for nursing mothers, and to support the USAF and USSF WIT with their ideas for positive change for women’s rights service-wide,” said McCray.