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    All female ICBM alert crew makes history

    All female ICBM alert crew makes history

    Photo By Lan Kim | Missileers from the 90th Operations Group and Retired Col. Pat Fornes, the first...... read more read more



    Story by Airman 1st Class Malcolm Mayfield 

    90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

    Thirty female officers from Warren participated in this historical event.

    The Air Force is constantly changing and improving because of its diverse selection of Airmen. Each brings something to the table that makes it the best Air Force in the world.

    “The diversity of a missile operations group is something special and something we should be proud of,” said Col. Todd Sauls, 90th Operations Group commander. “I am pretty excited about it. I think it’s a way of showing the pride we have in a diverse all volunteer force and what that brings to the plate.”

    Ninety female missileers, across the three ICBM wings: Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; and Malmstrom AFB, Montana; along with some female B-52 aircrews from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and Minot made U.S. Air Force history.

    Female aircrews from the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron’s Airborne Launch Control System, Offutt AFB, Nebraska also participated.

    Each volunteer who joins the Air Force adds to the ever growing family of Airmen, both male and female.

    “The benefits to having a military career are the obvious things: job security, a steady income, 30 days of paid leave per year — those are excellent — but more importantly it is the camaraderie that we have with our Air Force family,” said 1st Lt. Kelly Gorham, 320th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander.

    In addition to the pride she has in serving her country Gorham stated that serving as a woman was a source of pride as well.

    “Participating in this women’s history event is very significant to me because it reminds me of how far we have come as women in the military, but more importantly it inspires me,” Gorham said. “It inspires me and my other colleagues who are going out that day to say, ’Hey we do make a difference, we are recognized,’ and that’s why it’s important.”

    The Air Force has been progressing toward a more equal and unified force since its inception in 1947, and current Air Force leaders are able to see changes from the beginning of their careers to today.

    “When I was a second lieutenant you would have 10 or so female missileers in an ops group and now we can deploy a whole female crew force just because of the numbers we have,” Sauls said. “This is about history and heritage and having events like this is a good way to honor the people who came before us.”
    F. E. Warren Air Force Base is known for its history as the oldest continuously active military installation within the Air Force and this event isn’t its first mark in the history books when it comes to women in the military.

    Lea Dye, now retired, was the first female to work with the Minuteman III system, having been stationed at Warren in the 1980s.

    “When you are the only female wearing crew blues, what missileers wore at the time, you stick out,” Dye said. “This was a brand new social experience for the time and I knew whatever I did, I would set the stage for those who followed.”

    Women were first fully integrated into the military in the 1970s, adding up to less than two percent of the active force and serving in less than half of the possible career fields.

    By 1976, about 90 percent of the career fields were open to women and in 1978, the first female officer pulled alert in Strategic Air Command with the Titan II missile system. Then, some ten years later, as a first lieutenant, 321st Strategic Missile Squadron crew member, Dye pulled her first alert January of 1989.

    However, soon after she made her first steps as a female missileer for the Mighty Ninety, the number of female missileers skyrocketed and by her last days on the instillation she witnessed a massive change.

    “It was huge, I went from being the only female missileer to having a crowd with one-third being female at my final alert speech,” Dye said. “None of them knew what it was like to be the only women, there was no difference. A crew member was a crew member and it was amazing how quickly that changed.”

    Dye is one of many who opened the doors for females to take the helm as missile combat crew commanders, and gender is no longer a factor for today’s missileers—like Gorham.

    “I’ve never really thought of myself as a woman in the military, I’ve just been an Airman,” Gorham said. “[But] we are women, we are in the military and we’re doing good things. Sometimes the rewards are masked by that routine, but once you stand back and see that your family can sleep at night, see that your friends can sleep at night and the rest of the United States can sleep because you’re standing alert, that’s really the greatest reward you can ask for.”



    Date Taken: 03.22.2016
    Date Posted: 03.25.2016 10:40
    Story ID: 193521
    Location: F.E. WARREN AFB, WY, US

    Web Views: 251
    Downloads: 1