JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
This year’s Joint Base Charleston Women in Aviation Career Day, here March 20, was a resounding success according to event organizers.
“Success from our 11th Annual WIA Career Day event could be felt and seen by the excitement on the girls' faces; them dragging their feet when they didn't want to leave one area for another because they were so enthralled, said Barbara Sosebee, JBC WIA secretary.
"It's very inspiring just seeing what they've become and knowing that I can become too," said Gabreiella Johnson, a junior from Fort Dorchester High School attending this year's event.
“It was great watching everyone come together once again to mentor and share their experiences to bring about a possible light of hope in someone's future they may not have felt possible before,” said Sosebee.
More than 100 local girls from about 20 Lowcountry middle and high schools showed up to the 315th Airlift Wing’s career-day event, themed “Be Inspired,” which included career tables and demonstrations by various career fields in the aviation realm.
“Besides being a way for us to give back to the community, our Women in Aviation Career Day is an opportunity to inspire these young ladies to be whatever they want to be,” said Col. Jeanine McAnaney, 315th Airlift Wing vice commander.
Each year the event features an essay contest where the girls write about an influential woman who has overcome adversity and made an impact on aviation. This year’s JBC Women in Aviation Scholarship essay winners were:
- 1st Place ($250) Lynsey Dethier, Cane Bay High School, wrote about Charleston C-17 Maintainer, Senior Master Sgt. Michele Summers2nd Place
- ($200) Amy Lorentzos-Lobo, Wando High School, wrote about Russian cosmonaut and the first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova3rd Place
- ($150) Kayla Lass, Cane Bay High School, wrote about former First Lady Michelle Obama
This year’s guest speaker was Air Force Reserve Command Chief Ericka Kelly who captivated the girls by telling them about her humble beginnings as an abandoned and homeless 5-year-old Guatemalan girl and her life journey to presently holding the position as the highest ranking enlisted Airman in the Air Force Reserve.
“I am so honored to be where I am today; among the top 10 enlisted in the Air Force,” Kelly said to the girls.
The girls in the audience seemed to hang on the chief’s every word as she told them, “I never accepted the label that I had no value.”
“But there have been amazing people in my life who have helped me along the way,” Kelly said.
“Hope is real. Hard work is real,” Kelly said. “Do you guys have a dream?” To which the most of the girls said “yes.”
“Chase it!” Kelly said.
The Chief challenged the girls to “Get to the roots of who you are inside and keep taking steps forward.”
“These girls were mesmerized by the chief’s speech and were very respectful of her,” McAnaney said. “Hearing her say these things to the girls was huge.”
The girls also visited the flight line where they toured a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Inside they met with aeromedical evacuation nurses and technicians who had a full litter station set up. They also spoke with pilots and loadmasters who explained what their roles were.
"I didn't know a girl could be a fireman," said Charity Green, an 8th grader at Camp Road Middle School, after she met 315th Airlift Wing Firefighter Master Sgt. Mendy Dillard at one of the career tables.
On the flight deck, girls excitedly jumped into the pilot seats and grab the control sticks. “What does this button do? Is that a radar display? What are all those buttons for?” were the typical questions the excited girls asked.
Outside the aircraft, they spoke with maintenance specialists and got an up-close look the plane's behemoth engines and five-story tall tail section. And they toured the world-famous 315th AW Mini C-17 replica sitting off to the side of the full-sized jet.
At least a couple of times the members of the mini C-17 team heard, “Does this thing fly?” After a quick chuckle, they responded, “No.”