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NEWS | April 2, 2019

Girl’s day out: My thoughts during an all-female C-17 flight

By 2nd Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

On March 30th, I was fortunate enough to take part in the Women’s History Month incentive flight hosted by the 437th Airlift Wing. As a Public Affairs Officer we try to stay in the background and let others do the talking, but this experience could not be summed up in a caption and a hashtag. As I was contemplating the social media captions for photos and videos that I was going to publish later that day, I realized the overwhelming amount of feelings that I had about what I was witnessing.

My excitement picked up as I made my way through the passenger terminal and entered the waiting area before getting on the bus to the flight line. For the first time in my year and half on active duty, I entered a room of full of service members in uniform and they were all women. At first glance it may have seemed mundane. The female Airmen were just waiting, sitting or passing the time playing on their phones Nevertheless, I think we all knew this was special. We have all felt the sometimes unsettling feeling of being one of a few women in the room, unsure of how we’re going to be perceived...but not today. 

As we boarded the plane and watched the aircrew finish securing the cargo, brief the passengers and run through their checklists, I realized that for them it was just a regular day. There was no hesitation, no fear or doubt in their abilities. For many women in the workplace, no matter how competent, there are times we doubt ourselves and what we’re capable of. As I am not in an operational environment on a daily basis, I admire the courage and confidence of service women who are, as well as their confidence to handle any high-risk situation that comes their way, whether there’s a man on board or not. 

However it wasn’t just the aircrew I admired. I looked at each Airman on board with admiration, imagining their hardships and the obstacles they may have faced to get to where they are. I thought about how all the women on the flight came from different career fields and backgrounds, and yet somehow all our paths aligned on this day to honor each other and the women who paved the way for us. 

There were little things that stood out to me, such as when the doors to the plane opened and the aircrew’s hair came out of their perfectly tied buns, how some women were wearing makeup and others weren’t—yet there was no judgement or fear of negative perception, also how the aircrew came from different squadrons and even wings--yet from a distance people would think they had been flying together for years. 

Sometimes people question why it’s important to do these kinds of tributes and celebrate women in this way, but as I pondered this myself, the craziest thought popped into my head…male service members get to experience this on a daily basis. This incredible, magical and amazing moment of pride and camaraderie for the women on board is often just a regular day for most male service members. I’ve been lucky that my career field has almost equal male and female counterparts, but for a lot of the other Airmen on the flight this isn’t the case. This may be the only time they get to interact, bond and learn from so many other female Airmen like this. 

In the end, one of the most overwhelming feelings of the day was gratitude. I felt grateful to get to see and work with amazing female service members that some may only see in movies like Captain Marvel. I felt grateful for the opportunity to help tell their stories and grateful for the weeks of work by so many men and women to create this special moment.

As I look to the future, I hope that one day moments like these won’t be special. But for now, I’m inspired, motivated and very grateful.