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NEWS | April 11, 2012

My sister, my wingman

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

At 17-years-old, Michelle McMeekin was a high school graduate preparing for an adventure. Meanwhile, her 10-year-old sister, Wendy, was just preparing for middle school.

In those days, the sisters were complete opposites. The elder sister, Michelle was the self-described 'mother-hen' of the family, always looking out for her little sisters and trying to take care of everyone. Wendy was the 'wild' one of the family, always looking for a new adventure or thrill.

The adventure Michelle was preparing herself for brought her to the office of an Armed Forces recruiter.

"At first I wanted to join the Marines," said Senior Master Sgt. Michelle McMeekin, 628th Air Base Wing Community Action and Information Board director. "However, the Air Force not only offered me a ticket to travel the world, but also offered the types of career fields I wanted to be a part of. Also, my mom wasn't comfortable signing me up for the Marine Corps."

McMeekin's mother wasn't comfortable with the Air Force, either.

"When Michelle enlisted in the Air Force, our mom was very upset," said Tech. Sgt. Wendy Watson, 315th AirLift Wing loadmaster. "She was proud of her, but at the same time, she was nervous because Michelle was so young. I was still in grade school at the time, but I'll never forget how fun she made being in the Air Force look. It was inspiring to see her in her uniform. We were all so proud of her."

"My sister is the reason I joined the military," Watson added.

Watson dedicated six years of active-duty service to the Air Force before transferring into the Air Force Reserve. According to Watson, becoming a loadmaster was the best decision she made in her military career.

"I was always looking for an adventure," said Watson. "Today, my job gives me that. I have travelled across oceans in the backs of C-17's and been able to see countless countries all around the world. Being a loadmaster has given me so many opportunities and I owe some of that to my sister, Michelle, who always supported me."

During Watson's loadmaster graduation at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, McMeekin made a surprise visit to not only attend the graduation ceremony of her sister, but to also 'pin her wings on'.

"The most rewarding moment of my career was pinning my little sister's flight wings on during her loadmaster graduation," said McMeekin. "When I see one of our big grey planes up in the sky, I get a warm fuzzy feeling. I know my sister could be up there and on her way anywhere in the world helping others. Sometimes at night, especially when I was deployed, I like looking up at the sky and when I see those red tail lights flashing, it reminds me of the wonderful mission we do."

"I am a prime example that anyone can do anything they set their mind to," said Watson. "I cross trained from maintenance into becoming a loadmaster even after others made me feel like I couldn't. I did it because it was what I wanted. I don't know if I could have done it without my sister continuously motivating me and being such a strong leader. My way of showing her how grateful I am is by motivating young Airmen to never give up on yourself when you believe in something."

McMeekin has been more than a motivating leader to her sister, she has also been her friend.

"I can count on Michelle for anything," said Watson. "She is there for me as my sister and as my wingman. When I need guidance, from AFI regulations to my personal life, I can always rely on her."

Watson joined the military hoping to travel the world and 15-years later, after logging thousands of miles throughout her Air Force adventure, her journey still continues and her passion of challenging herself makes the sky the limit. For McMeekin, more than 20 years of an outstanding Air Force career has left her with a positive, resilient attitude and head full of cherished memories.

"Although my sister and I sometimes didn't see eye-to-eye, and we grew up with a seven-year age difference, one thing we can agree on is clear; the Air Force may have given us different paths to travel, but the roads we took were successful because of the decisions we made. When you do the right thing, take care of your Airmen and put your heart into what you do, it pays off," said McMeekin.