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Women's History Month

The month of March is Women's History Month. Join us as we celebrate women in the United States Air Force.


Prior to the establishment of the United States Air Force in 1948, it existed as the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II. While at this time women were considered for service, they were not trained as pilots until after the US joined the fight. In 1942, two all-women's units were formed, and by 1943 they had combined to form the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), with pilots Jackie Cochran serving as the leader and Nancy Harkness Love serving as the Executive for women pilots in the Ferrying Command. Women within the program rapidly extended their qualifications to include experience with nearly every type of aircraft in service, leading to their pilot training mirroring that of their male counterparts except for combat acrobatics.

The WASP program unlocked aviation for women in the USAAF, and by the end of the pilot training program it graduated 1,074 graduates, who, combined with Love's "Originals," ferried over 50% of the combat aircraft within the US during the war years and flew at 126 bases across the country. Cochran and Love had hopes that the USAAF would militarize the program and thus mitigate a number of unequal policies including salary, but in 1944 when Gen Arnold planned to commission women pilots as Second Lieutenants, these plans were squashed by opposition from Congress, leading instead to the announcement of the closure of the WASP program. While their hard work and sacrifice was forgotten for several years, in 1977 President Carter signed a law granting WASPs veteran status with limited benefits. In the same year, the USAF graduated its first female pilots.

Maj Gen Marcelite Harris

Maj Gen Marcelite Harris was the highest-ranking female officer in the Air Force and the nation's highest-ranking Black woman in the Department of Defense at the time of her retirement in 1997. Having passed away in 2018, Maj Gen Harris left behind a tremendous legacy. Having completed Officer Training School at Lackland AFB in Texas in 1965, her time in service held a variety of assignments and her career included many firsts. Maj Gen Harris was the first female aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two female air officers commanding at the US Air Force Academy, and the USAF's first female director of maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration, and her service medals and decorations include the Bronze Star, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Vietnam Service Medal. Maj Gen Harris was truly a trailblazer within the USAF, and we thank her for her service.

Community Spotlights

Each week during the month we'll be highlighting members who are a part of our very own RAF Lakenheath community! Keep an eye out on social media - and add this page your bookmarks! We asked a few women, "what or who empowers you?" Here are their answers...

Jade Blackburn

Education is empowering because it helps give women knowledge and skills to chase their dreams , break barriers, and promote equality, leading to more powerful, independent women.

TSgt Marina Martinez

I would say that my daughter, Lydia, my supervisor, and my Force Management Team empower me. My team makes me more confident in my abilities to fight for their hard work, my daughter drives me to be a better person, and MSgt. Vaquero lifts me up when I doubt myself .

Sandra Jenkinson

Every person I have interacted within my 59 years on this earth. Being able to process information and understand my own thought pattern and mind.

SrA Sara Hallstein

The Lord is my strength and my shield... It has been a long journey of discovering who my God has made me to be, and I am only at the beginning. There is nothing I can do without Him, and I take comfort in that. 

SSgt Aaquejia Graham

I am empowered by my best friend because she is hardworking and inspirational. She achieves all of the goals she sets for herself and motivates me to pursue my goals.

TSgt Marleny Barboza

I'm empowered by my mom, my sisters and myself. I think coming from a culture that is built around machismo, every day we choose to do things that women wouldn't "normally" do is inspiring. So, I want to thank these women for their strength, their courage and most importantly for dreaming.

MSgt Antionette Graham

Being a good example for all those around me and being true to my core value of honesty and self respect.

  1. Women's History Month. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2024, from
  2. Five African-American women who made U.S. military history. (2021) Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
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Thursday, April 18, 2024

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