News: Small town, small school, big dreams
ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – She is from a small town where she went to a small school, but she had a big dream to become a pilot.
Maj. Meghan Fridley, a Big Lake, Alaska, native, expressed that with dedication and hard work, one’s goals can be accomplished.
“As a little girl I decided I wanted to be a pilot, which is what drove my decision to go to the Air Force Academy where I majored in astronautical engineering,” Fridley said.
Fridley sometimes felt lonely being the only woman in her classes.
“I would be sitting in class and realize, ‘I don’t think I have a class with another woman all day. This is a different world, different from high school, and different from anything I’ve ever experienced growing up,’” Fridley said.
To boost herself up, Fridley started looking at the situation from another angle.
“I think it’s good to celebrate who and what you are - woman, man, culture, or religion - but that is not all of you,” Fridley said. “I started focusing on being a member of the military and an engineering graduate instead of just focusing on being a woman. I think looking at what part of you is still included in a larger group is helpful.”
Fridley described that being looked at differently because of being a woman was one obstacle she faced during her career in the Air Force.
“It happened in pilot training too,” Fridley said. “Sometimes I did have to work a little bit harder (than the males did) because if for a moment someone realized that I was the only female, I was spotlighted. But as long as you’re getting the job done and you’re achieving the best that you can, I think that speaks for itself.”
Eager to share her experience and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Fridley took the reins of the STEM program at Altus AFB.
“We started with the teachers, by showing them how we use STEM in our day-to-day lives.” Fridley said. “I think we can expand further as this program continues and apply our expertise to what the children are doing in classes - show them directly that they do have to learn these subjects, because later in life it can help them get a good career in the STEM field.”
When reflecting on what inspired her to pursue her dreams, one woman in history came to Fridley’s mind.
“My mom is definitely my inspiration,” Fridley said. “She raised me to never know boundaries, never know limits, and that I can do anything I want to do. She pushed me all along the way. When I wanted to quit, she wouldn’t let me, she continued to push me to achieve my dreams. It’s definitely thanks to my mom that I am where I am today.”
Today, Fridley is assigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron as a C-17 Globemaster III evaluator pilot and will be going on her third deployment in the upcoming months. She hopes she is able to inspire women every day, wherever she goes.
“Don’t let it intimidate you being alone - being the only woman there - because you’ve got what it takes, and if you want something bad enough you can get there,” she said.