Woman in a Man’s job

Staff Sgt. Brian Hill
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***These days, Linda Ogles processes claims in the Veterans Affairs benefits delivery at discharge office at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

But working for the Department of Defense and the KMC began with a seven-year career as a security forces member back when being an “SP” was a “man’s job.”

It was Linda, and a few other women, who pioneered their way into the newly-opened, gender-neutral career field.

“The counselor said it was a new field that had just recently been opened to women,” said Linda, who joined the Air Force in May 1973 as a 19-year old from Duncanville, Texas. “The field intrigued me, and growing up with two older brothers, I knew I could be tough enough to do the job.”

After basic training, Linda attended technical training school at Lackland AFB, Texas. As she recalls, she was only one of two women in the school, in only the second class graduating with women.

“I initially got some comments from my male counterparts in the context that, ‘I had to pull my own load,’ which I did,” she said. “It seemed like I always had to prove myself, which I did. I got a lot of stares while doing my SP duties because, for many, I was the first female SP they had ever seen. The stares got old but came to be expected.”

During her training, Linda fired expert with the .38 caliber pistol and the M-16. The shotgun and the grenade launcher was another story for the 5’2” 100-pound Airman Basic.

***image2***“The shotgun made my ears ring and my shoulder sore,” she said. “The grenade launcher really kicked me backwards!”

After graduating from technical school, Linda was assigned to Malmstrom AFB, Mont., where she was the second female SP. She started on gate guard duty, but the squadron didn’t have cold weather gear in her size.

“The men were issued ‘bunny boots,’ but I wasn’t issued any because they didn’t have my size, so I bought some on the economy,” she said. “My flight chief said I was out of uniform, so I respectfully told him that my feet get cold just like the men. He didn’t really have a response and I kept wearing my ‘bunny boots.’”

After many months of gate guard duty, Linda noticed many of the newly arriving Airmen were driving vehicles on patrol duty, but she had not been given that opportunity.

“I questioned my flight chief and he said he didn’t want me to get hurt,” she said. “While I was grateful he was looking out for my interests, I told him that I joined the SP because I wanted to do the job just like the men and if I get hurt doing my job – well, I would get hurt. I didn’t want to be treated differently and didn’t want preferential treatment.”

A few weeks later, she was driving on patrol duty.

“I knew that this being a new career field for women that I might have to stand up for my rights and hopefully pave the way for other women to follow,” she said. “I didn’t want to let down those women following in my footsteps.”

Her next assignment was Kunsan Air Base, Korea. She arrived there as the first female SP.

“It was a little more challenging due to the culture and the perception of the types of jobs for women in that culture,” she said.

After 15 months in Korea working jobs such as gate guard, patrol duty and ration control, she was assigned to England AFB, La. In the years she was assigned there, she worked as crime prevention NCO and flight chief.

After a number of years, Linda was given the opportunity for an assignment to Germany.

“I had the option of taking the assignment or ending my career, since I was up for reenlistment,” she said. “As much as I wanted to go to Germany, I would have had to leave my family behind for up to two years because there was a shortage of housing. At this time, I had to choose between family and career, and I chose family – with no regrets.”

After separating from the Air Force, Linda used her G.I. Bill to further her education and soon began working for the VA.

“As fate would have it, they had an opening at the BDD office at Landstuhl,” she said. “I have really enjoyed this assignment and it brings back fond memories and pride when I see the women SPs doing their job at Ramstein and Vogelweh.”