Whiteman women work for a more perfect union

Maj. Kellie Courtland, left, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, Maj. Redahlia Person, center, 509th Maintenance Squadron commander, and Maj. Catherine Tredway, 509th Force Support Squadron commander, stand in front of 509th Bomb Wing B-2 Spirit and T-38 Talon aircraft July 24, 2015 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. March is Women’s History Month (WHM), and the trio represent the 2016 WHM theme, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

Maj. Kellie Courtland, left, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, Maj. Redahlia Person, center, 509th Maintenance Squadron commander, and Maj. Catherine Tredway, 509th Force Support Squadron commander, stand in front of 509th Bomb Wing B-2 Spirit and T-38 Talon aircraft July 24, 2015 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. March is Women’s History Month (WHM), and the trio represent the 2016 WHM theme, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- This March, in keeping with the Women's History Month theme, "Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government," I offer a small account of the people who do exactly that. They may not make history books, but they very much do serve for "a more perfect" state of gender equality, making history today.

I think of people like Whiteman's own Mission's End Club Manager, Karen O'Camb, a veteran who served as one of the Air Force's first female weapons loaders in the 1980s. Ask her sometime about her military experience, and you might hear a story about how she hid her pregnancy, lifting hundreds of pounds of munitions every day. Ms. O'Camb felt that her situation could negatively impact her career, but continued to proudly serve through this period of great adversity.

To Ms. O'Camb and to others like her, I have to say thank you. Thank you for being bold; for making it work the best way you could while having a family and serving in uniform; for not quitting; for sticking with it; and for challenging the status quo just a little bit at a time. I think you are owed much credit for "a more perfect" situation for active duty families like mine today. While you worried about the possibility of public scorn and harm to your career for starting a family, I write this today from home while on extended maternity leave, having the full support of my chain of command and Wingmen. I appreciate trailblazers like you. Cheers!

I also extend my appreciation for people like my grandmother, Meme Mudgett, a DoD civilian for 30 years who served as a childcare provider and eventually became assistant director at the Cannon Air Force Base Child Development Center. She cared for hundreds of military families in her lifetime, making the base mission as much hers as it was for those in uniform.
At her recent funeral, I was struck by stories of how the base commanders had her home phone number for decades and relied on her specifically to open the facility for early morning no-notice base exercises during the Cold War. Okay, so she wasn't active duty and she didn't exactly "challenge" anything like Ms. O'Camb. But, her leadership in supporting military families was certainly working toward forming "a more perfect" state--work that I would argue impacts current and future generations. Her care and supervision for military kids, myself included, meant dads and moms could work their pieces of the mission in the 1960s-1980s, and she even inspired a few of us to join ourselves.

Today, I have the privilege to serve as the 509th Force Support Squadron commander. I see first-hand how Nana's work continues right here at Whiteman. Because of women like her, the rest of us can continue to serve both our families and our country, and that's a big deal to me. It should be a big deal to all of us. So to Nana, and to our amazing caregivers today: cheers to you.

I hope to inspire us all to think about the difference-makers in our lives today. Take the time to thank them. Plenty of us will never make the history books, but we all have an opportunity to be trailblazers forming "a more perfect" state, even if in small ways.