SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. - In 1978, Congress deemed Aug. 26 Women's Equality Day. This time can be used to reflect on women's suffrage and the continued effort for equality amongst all Americans.
"The 19th Amendment reaffirmed what we have always known: that America is a place where anything is possible and where each of us is entitled to the full pursuit of our own happiness," said President Barack Obama in his 2012 Women's Equality Day proclamation. "Nearly a century after the battle for women's franchise was won, a new generation of young women stands ready to carry that spirit forward and bring us closer to a world where there are no limits on how big our children can dream or how high they can reach."
Women such as Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman, first female pilot of African-American descent, retired Lt. Col. Eileen Collins, first female to command a space shuttle, and Col. Jeannie Leavitt, first female Air Force fighter pilot, have laid the stepping stones for the advancement of females' roles in the military.
Master Sgt. LaTasha Carroway, 4th Force Support Squadron career assistance adviser, has been present to experience the many transformations of women's roles in the Air Force and hopes to contribute to what has already been accomplished.
"I'm all about equal opportunities for women," Carroway said. "As I look at today's Air Force, our current commander is an example of how women are moving forward in a lot of leadership positions. We're setting the foundation for other females to take on greater responsibility, not only in the military, but in the nation. I'm excited, and whether I'm a part of that or not, I look back and say we've come a long way."
Carroway enlisted in the Air Force in 1995 in the medical career field. She had the opportunity to work as an air medical evacuation technician for more than four years at Ramstein Air Base, Germany - a position she says is one of her many career highlights.
"In 2010, I was embedded in the Afghan National Army as a medic mentor," she said. "It was definitely a challenge as a female. It's a male-dominated culture, so for me to say, 'I'm in charge of you and I'm a female,' it can pose a lot of challenges. Other than that, I feel like I haven't had obstacles as a female in my job because I've been able to do everything men do, so it never was a question."
Like many Service members, Carroway juggles several hats every day, aside from her core job as a career adviser. She is the First Term Airman Center superintendent, she's actively involved in community service and various private organizations on base and she is also a wife; a task she says is a test she reevaluates day-by-day.
Although balancing family life is a challenge, Carroway says she's been fortunate enough to have a very supportive spouse who served 24 years and retired honorably from the Air Force. He understands the challenges she faces and knows how passionate she is about what she does, so he supports her more than she could ever ask. She says he also lets her know when she's gone too far into work-mode and needs to back up into wife-mode.
When offering advice to women in similar situations, Carroway says it's all about balancing lifestyles and taking care of yourself.
"Are you a wife? Are you a mother? Are you a big sister? Are you an aunt? Whatever the case may be, you have to find a balance," Carroway said. "I know a lot of women are very driven and sometimes we want to show we can do anything, regardless of gender. Most importantly, take care of you. Once you take care of yourself, it's easier to take care of others."
Whether she is destined to advance to the next two enlisted ranks or finish her time in the Air Force within the next two years, Carroway maintains a frequently-changing list of aspirations.
"My number one objective is to just put a footprint down for the airmen I leave behind," she said. "What have I done to make the Air Force better? What have I done to mold and shape the future? I do aspire to make the next two ranks, and before I retire, I want to know that I have improved the Air Force. My goal is just to be all that I can be and give back everything that's been given to me."