JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C --
More than 130 middle and high school girls from 12 Lowcountry schools visited March 22 to learn about jobs in aviation as part of the 315th Airlift Wing’s 9th annual Women in Aviation Career Day.
Among the women role models the girls met were the 315th AW’s top ranking female, Col. Caroline Evernham, 315th Operations Group commander, Lt. Col. Heidi Bucheit, 701st Airlift Squadron pilot, Staff Sgt. Candace Walters and Tech. Sgt. Lisa Crowther, both 300th AS loadmasters, Master Sgt. Marcie Dickerson, a 315th Airlift Control Flight loadmaster, and Master Sgt. Rachel Bateman, 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and others.
This year’s guest speaker Col. Barbara Ortiz, Air Force Reserve Command Logistics Readiness Division chief, spoke to the girls about what she would tell her teenage self.
“It’s not going to be easy and sometimes you get pushed out of your comfort zone,” Ortiz told the girls. “Don’t be afraid, find a balance in your life, and don’t forget about the people who make you feel important.”
Ortiz was a maintainer on a spy plane as a young enlisted Airman. She became an officer under the Deserving Airmen Commissioning Program in 1996.
After Ortiz spoke to the girls to kick off the event, a group of about a dozen enlisted and officer women Reservists performed a skit that talked about their journey along their career and their family life.
"Each year I’m happy to see women making more strides in all areas of our military, particularly aviation," said Evernham. "I think that there are just so many different careers available to women that these young ladies find out about and I think it’s exciting for them.”
Lt. Col. Mary Jeffrey, 315th OG executive officer, recognized participants of this year's WIA essay contest and presented a scholarship, a one-year membership in Women in Aviation International and a WIA t-shirt.
The essay winners were:
1st: Ogugua Nwaezeigwe, Cane Bay High School, $250 prize and an opportunity to shadow Col. Jeanine McAnaney, 315th AW vice commander.
2nd: Jessica Turnbaugh, Hanahan High School, $175 prize
3rd: Shanyla Moultrie, Cane Bay High School, $125 prize
Nwaezeigwe said what impressed her the most was that women were no longer restrained by a glass ceiling in a previously male dominated field. “I think that today is what showed me that I can be a plane technician. I can get all these degrees. I can really be in this field,” the essay winner told TV news crews at the event.
In one of the hangars, the girls were given lunch and then visited career tables where they met women in Aersopace Medicine, Security Forces, Aeromedical Evacuation, Combat Camera, and other specialties.The girls also got an up close and personal look at the C-17 Globemaster III parked outside the hangar where they spoke with maintainers and loadmasters. On the flight deck they sat at the controls while talking to women pilots.
“Women in the military – women in aviation – are still kind of a smaller portion of the population but that’s changing more each year,” said retired 315th AW pilot Lt. Col. Debi Rieflin.
Rieflin, who is now a first officer with Delta Airlines, said “Events like this are our way of reaching out to the young women”
One of the girl’s eyes opened wide in disbelief when she met Capt. Moll McCarthy, 300th AS pilot. The girl was in disbelief that despite recently having a baby, McCarthy was at the event in her flight suit.
This career day is part of the efforts of the 315th AW and Women in Aviation, an international group that encourages women to seek career opportunities in aviation.
According to a 2014 statistic from the Federal Aviation Administration, of the nearly 593,499 active pilots in the United States, less than seven percent are women, and women account for only 25 percent of the more than 678,444 non-pilot aviation jobs in the United States.
“Any girl out there that wants to do aviation but believes the stereotype that only men can do it should follow their dreams, work hard and believe and follow their hearts that they can make it,” Nwaezeigwe added