Our History is Our Strength

  • Published
  • By Maj. Erika Kelley
  • 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
There have been countless women throughout history that we can pinpoint as having made remarkable contributions to where we are today. Abigail Adams was a women's rights activist and her views were well respected and influential in government affairs during her husband's time as the President. Eleanor Roosevelt was also very influential as a first lady and humanitarian activist, using her position to promote reform for women, minorities and the poor. Amelia Earhart set several aviation firsts and encouraged many people to open their minds to the possibilities that women could do many things previously reserved for men.

In the Air Force, rules have continuously changed over the years in regards to career fields women have been allowed to occupy. Even 20 years ago, women were not allowed to fly aircraft into combat. Today, the restrictions have been lifted to the point where you can find a woman filling almost any position a man can fill as long as they can meet the physical qualifications. 20 years ago it would have caught people off guard to see a female A-10 pilot landing an aircraft after it was shot full of holes or to see an all-female KC-135 crew complete an in-flight refueling over Iraq. Now, no one blinks an eye because it is part of our daily life, and it is a great tribute to the Air Force that we don't think twice about it.

As we celebrate Women's History Month this month, the theme for 2011 is "Our History is Our Strength." There are many famous historical figures we can study, but I think it is important to consider that in today's Air Force, we all have a personal history that includes women. Women have been our co-workers, supervisors and subordinates since we have been in the Air Force. We can all think back and remember at least one woman who has helped shape us into the person we are today. The most impressive thing about this, however, is that we probably never considered the gender of this woman as an important factor at all in the impact she made. She was just a person who made a difference or an impression on our life and changed it in some way that is still meaningful to us today.

Our own personal history is what gives us all strength in many difficult situations we face daily in our lives. Whether the people who shaped us were family members, supervisors or informal mentors, those women encouraged us and provided us inspiration to reach for our goals. This month is a great time to pause to thank those women who were part of our own personal history and have made a difference and provided inspiration in our lives. Whether they were role models from history that we aspire to live up to or personal mentors who guided us toward becoming stronger, the women who shaped our country's history remind us that adversity can always be overcome.

For more information about women's history, visit the National Women's History Project website at www.nwhp.org. You can find information and biographies on many women who shaped our nation's history and links to websites that may help you find out more about your own personal history.