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Change brings opportunity for female Guardsmen

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Roger Parsons
  • 116th ACW
Times have changed since 1968 when the first woman was sworn into the Air National Guard thanks to the passage of Public Law 90-130 that allowed the ANG to enlist women.

Fast forward 46 years and the portion of female enlistees have grown to more than 22 percent according to a Department of Defense demographics report.

Within the 116th Air Control Wing, female Airmen work in approximately 70percent of the 100 different career fields supporting the Air Force E-8C Joint STARS aircraft mission, according to data provided by the 116th Force Support Squadron. The aircraft and joint crew perform command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for the Georgia Air National Guard and combatant commanders at home and abroad.

"Women from both the enlisted and officer ranks are entrenched in every group making up our Wing," said Chief Master Sgt. Lorenzo Anastasie, command chief for the 116th ACW.

The chief went on to share how the female Airmen have played a vital role in helping Team JSTARS achieve more than 90,000 flight hours during the past 12 years of continuous operations overseas.

Far removed from the early days of service when the majority of women in the military occupied medical roles, female Airmen from the 116th now work in occupations aboard the aircraft, and perform vital jobs in areas such as logistics, transportation, maintenance, supply, civil engineering, security forces (combat and non-combat), medical, and administrative.

Approaching her 10-year anniversary in the military, with six years in the Air National Guard, Staff Sgt. Tiffany Gassman, a Traditional Guardsman working as a security forces craftsman in the 116th, talks about her experience as an Air Guard cop.

"I originally chose the Security Forces career field because it was the first available job where I could leave for basic training right away," said Gassman. "I love this career field because it gives me a chance to do something totally opposite of what I do in my civilian job."

As a civilian, Gassman operates her own beauty salon working as a hairdresser.

"When people learn that I'm a cop in the military, handling a variety of automatic weapons, driving Humvees and deploying to combat zones, they find it hard to believe because it's so different than how they know me as a hair dresser," shared Gassman.

"There are two sides to me and I love them both," she said. "The Guard allows me to enjoy the best of both worlds.

For Lt. Col. Kimberly Ainsworth, the 116th ACW chief of staff, a career in the Air National Guard offered the opportunity to follow in her mother's footsteps.

"Growing up I watched my mother in the military and it was a part of my life," said Ainsworth. "My mom joined the Rhode Island National Guard not long after they opened it up for women and became the first female to join their military police company."

"I didn't think anything about her being a woman in the military, it was normal to me," shared Ainsworth.

Drawn to the camaraderie she witnessed in her mother's unit, Ainsworth enlisted in the same Guard unit as her mother in 1992 and left for Basic Military Training as soon as she graduated from college.

Embracing the Guard; much like her mother who served 30 years before retiring, Ainsworth currently serves an integral role on the wing commander's staff.

Lt. Col. Ainsworth and Staff Sgt. Gassman, are but a couple of examples of female Airmen from the 116th embracing the progressive opportunities for females, and helping to transform women's roles in the military.