News: Senior Airman Tara Langella, a Shoreham Resident, is First Female Weapons Instructor at 106th Rescue Wing
Story by Eric Durr
By Senior Airman Christopher Muncy
WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. -- New York Air National Guard Senior Airman Tara Langella, a Shoreham resident, and Afghanistan veteran, is the 106th Rescue Wing's first female Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructor, but that's not a
fact she wants emphasized.
As a recent graduate from the CATM Academy, her job is to teach other airmen how to properly handle, clean and fire their weapons. She said doesn't want to be known as the first female CATM instructor on base; she wants to be known as a competent, capable instructor who will show the men and women of the 106th how to fight and win on the battlefield.
"My mentality on this is that I just want to do my job and go home like anybody else" Langella said. "I don't like the attention [being the first female instructor brings] just because I feel like everyone else."
As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Langella's positive work ethic helped her stand out from the crowd. "When I was in the AOR, I got a lot of attention, earning Airmen of the Year and the Diamond Sharp Award twice, I put in over a hundred volunteer hours at the on base hospital. I didn't think I was going to get a medal for the work, I just did it because I wanted to help. I'd rather be known for doing good work and doing my job the way I'm supposed to rather than getting recognized just because I'm a female."
This attitude served well during her time at the CATM Academy.
The Air Force CATM program is in place to ensure that airmen knowledgeable in the handling and care of weapons are present in all units in the Air Force.
"It was pretty difficult- really it was much harder than I expected, but I got through it in the end."
Through three different training blocs, Langella had to learn how to clean, fire, and clear almost every firearm in the Air Force's inventory, including the M9 pistol, the M4 and M16 rifles, as well as the M249 and M203 machine guns and M203 grenade launcher.
"Believe it or not, the hardest part were the presentations. Talking in front of everyone was much harder and more nerve wracking than I would have thought. After a while, though, you got used to it., " she said.
Of course, it didn't hurt that she's always had a fascination with weapons, Langella said.
"I know it's not very 'girlie' of me, but it's one of the reason's I wanted to join Security Forces," she explained.
The Air Force's Security Forces Squadrons are responsible for the ground security of Air Force facilities around the world. They go through the same training Army soldiers do.
While Langella said she may enjoy certain aspects of the job, she understands the serious responsibilities that come with her position.
"If you don't know your weapon, especially in a hostile environment, you're going to die. It's as simple as that, "she said.
During her deployment, she noticed that a fellow service members weapon seemed a bit light. When she asked, the other stated that "the weapon was too heavy, so she kept it unloaded.
"I was shocked! Here I am, carrying almost 90 pounds of gear [including 210 lethal rounds, 6 nonlethal rounds, crowd dispersal and stun grenades,] and the only thing she had to carry was one rifle and one magazine! If we got into a firefight, and she didn't know why her weapon wasn't firing or had to take the time to load it ... what was she going to do? Hide behind me?" Langella said.
One major lesson that Langella brought back was that you always have to be prepared, regardless of your situation or location.
"Langella is the epitome of what a Security Force airman stands for and her professionalism stands out amongst her peers," said Maj. Celestino J. Martinez, commander of the 106th Security Forces Squadron .
"We are all proud of her accomplishments in the past year in Afghanistan and at CATM school, and we have high expectations for her ... as they say cream always rises to the top and there is nowhere to go but up for this young airmen, ' he said.
With airmen getting ready for future deployments, Langella understands how important her job is.
"I know my weapon inside and out, and I'm going to teach what I learned throughout my training. I've always wanted to join the military, and my family wasn't surprised when I enlisted. The Air Force is my second family, and I'd do anything for them," she said
This work, Senior Airman Tara Langella, a Shoreham Resident, is First Female Weapons Instructor at 106th Rescue Wing, by Eric Durr, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.