Women’s History Month: Honoring the past, present and future

Story and photos by Airman 1st Class Kenny Holston
435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

From banding together to serve their country during World War I to pushing for the 19th Amendment, women have played a huge part in defining America and the armed forces.

For more than a decade, American presidents have proclaimed the month of March as Women’s History Month with the goal of recognizing women and reflecting on the accomplishments they have made throughout history.

“The reason women’s history is so important is because it’s the same foundation on why we recognize other multi-cultural history months,” said Col. Angela Thompson, 435th Medical Group commander. “Our world history is tremendously vast and the books have not captured critical information about who and what shaped our world. We as a people learn and celebrate lots of added knowledge we acquire during these celebrations every year.”

Women gained their first opportunity to enlist and serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War I as the number of wounded American war fighters grew and the military realized it would be beneficial to enlist women as nurses. Through the battlefields of war – when women fought for military enlistment – to aiding men in war zones, women have continued to fight for their place in today’s society, making
history one step at a time.

“My leadership role is both challenging and exciting because the opportunities for women to lead have quadrupled since my enlistment 25 years ago,” Colonel Thompson said. “It’s challenging because there are still a few people, both men and women, who still believe women are not capable of leading large organizations. There have been both supervisors and subordinates who have required me to prove that as a woman I am organized and an
expert in my ability to influence those on my team.”

Numerous women have paved the way – through big and small triumphs – for today’s female servicemembers. Some of the more notable ones are Marty Wyall, who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots; Betty Gillies, who was the first woman pilot to qualify for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron; and Sgt. Vanessa Sheffield, who was a C-130 Hercules maintainer in the 1970s, a time when there were few women in the maintenance career field.

“I’m proud to benefit from the women that banded together throughout
history making it possible for me to be a pilot in the Air Force today,” said Capt. J.J. Wolf, 37th Airlift Squadron C-130 pilot. “I love my job and do my best to continue to honor and make way for women each day I put on my flight suit.”

As part of Women’s History Month, Ramstein will host several events to honor women of the past, present and future, including a recognition breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Wednesday in Suite 1 of the Ramstein Officers’ Club.