JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Over 110 middle and high school girls from 15 Lowcountry schools attended the 315th Airlift Wing’s 12th Annual Women in Aviation Career Day March 19, 2019, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
The wing’s WIA vision is “investing in tomorrow’s leaders” and the event’s organizers have many inspirational women who wear the uniform to help them out. One example is Senior Master Sgt. Valerie Langford, 315th Force Support Squadron, who has been with the program for many years. She told WCSC Live 5 News that the program’s success was thanks to the many dedicated people and organizations who pitch in each year.
“We want to show the girls what the military does, what aviation careers are out there," Langford said. “We have colleges represented as well as corporate entities like Boeing, just to give them an idea that there are things to do in the industry for women that are far beyond anything they can dream about.
“Diversity is the Air Force’s mission and we feel that having women of all races and ethnicities is one of the greatest things," Langford added. "And today women need to know that we can do anything because girls rock!”
The career day started out with guest speaker Col. Jeanine McAnaney, 315 AW vice commander. She told the girls about how she got into the aviation career field as an Air Force pilot. She explained the various obstacles she had to overcome and how, as a woman, she had to give much more than 100 percent to equal the 100 percent of her male colleagues. But she told the girls she never quit.
Each year the program holds a scholarship essay contest for the girls. This year the girls were asked to answer two questions: Why do you think the world of aviation is still dominated by men? What strategies can be used to attract more women to pursue a career in aviation?
The winners of this year’s scholarship essay are:
1st Place - $250 – Chloe Forman, Cane Bay High School
2nd Place - $ 200 – Kinsey Cote, Cane Bay High School
3rd Place - $150 – Melissa Harris, Cane Bay High School
Next a Women in Aviation skit was performed by three women reservists who had different aviation careers and different paths to get to where they were today.
Maj. Molly McCarthy, 317th Airlift Squadron Pilot, spoke of her journey from loadmaster to pilot, and her balancing of her civilian job as a forestry management worker as well as being a mother.
Staff Sgt. Shakeyna Smith, 701st Airlift Squadron aviation resource manager, told how she, as a single mother of two, managed to join the Air Force Reserve, go back to college and, most recently, earn acceptance to be a future Air Force Reserve pilot.
Senior Airman Dhyareon Herren, 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron aviation resource manager, also a single mother, told how she balances her family life with both her Reserve job and her civilian job as a certified pharmacy technician.
The girls heartedly applauded the three women who shared their stories.
Next, the girls boarded blue Air Force buses and were transported to various display and interactive areas. One of the stops included touring the 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 5 facility, where complete sub-sections of a C-17 Globemaster III are set up to train aircraft maintainers. There, they saw a huge Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engine suspended in the air with its access panels opened to display the magic behind their tremendous power. The students also visited a room in the facility that contained a C-17 flight deck, complete with pilot seats and controls. Another room housed an enormous C-17 tail section. On the jet, the tail stands five stories high, but the one the girls were seeing was still impressively tall.
The next stop was to the base flightline, where a static C-17 was staged. Inside, the girls were greeted by female loadmasters, an aeromedical evacuation crew, and up on the flight deck, they were given the opportunity to sit in the pilot’s seat at the controls of the C-17. They shot off question after question, asking, “What does this button do?” or “What is this for?”
“I’ve never been on a C-17," said Logan Rattley, Fort Dorchester High School sophomore. “I never knew what it looked like on the inside and I got to see at how it looked and functioned and how the crew functions.”
Inside the nearby hangar, the girls were fed lunch and had the opportunity to speak with representatives at about 20 career tables. They spoke with members of the 628th Security Forces Squadron, members of the 628th Explosive Ordinance Disposal team, members of the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 1st Combat Camera Squadron, 560th RED HORSE Squadron, representatives from Boeing and more.
This career day is sponsored by Citizen Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing and Women in Aviation committee, a group that encourages women to seek career opportunities in aviation. According to a 2017 statistic from the Federal Aviation Administration, of the 609,306 active pilots in the United States, only about seven percent are women and women account for almost 30 percent of the nearly 700,000 non-pilot aviation jobs in the United States.