by Staff Sgt. Susan L. Davis
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
3/10/2015 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The Warriors of the North gathered at the Northern Lights Club here Mar. 6, 2015, to celebrate Women's History Month.
The theme of this year's observance was "Weaving the Stories of Women's
Lives." Chief Master Sgt. Dana Hughes, 319th Mission Support Group
superintendent, was the keynote speaker.
Hughes began by giving a short background of Women's History Month,
explaining that it began as Women's History Week in 1981, and that it
expanded to a month-long observance in 1987. Since then, it has become
an annual declared month worldwide, complete with presidential
proclamations, which highlight the contributions of women to events in
history and contemporary society.
She shared a short history about herself and her decision to join the Air Force.
"I could've stayed the course with most of my family, friends and
associates," she said. "You know, do the marriage, kids, and/or job, the
house and the picket fence, or I could travel the path that would
broaden my horizons and opportunities. So I chose to take the path to
broaden my horizons and opportunities, because I didn't want to be like
everyone I graduated from high school with."
She then touched on her earliest experiences as an Airman, sharing
stories about her time in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force
Base, Texas, in December 1988, where she caught the attention of two
military training instructors for her self-assuredness.
"My first night at basic training, I stuck out and caught the attention
of the TI," she said. "I'm not sure if it was because my attire was
coordinated, or if it was because of my facial expressions, because some
of the other females were crying. I thought to myself, 'you should've
gotten that out of the way before you got here.'"
Hughes recounted the experiences she had with both of her military
training instructors, explaining that she had made a name for herself
with them, and because of that, she was always on their radar.
She spoke of how she viewed the two MTIs and their laser focus on her as
an obstacle, but she differentiated between what an obstacle is and
what a challenge is.
"Some of you may say they're one and the same," she said. "And I say to
you, they are not. It's about widening your perspective. You have to
decide, what are you going to allow to define you? In order to do that,
you have to decide whether what is being presented before you, an
obstacle or a challenge."
Hughes explained that to her, an obstacle is a hurdle presented by other people. A challenge, she said, is a test.
"As women, we have challenges on a daily basis," she said. "They start
early and often, and they vary in scope as we achieve success along with
our male counterparts. We will encounter people always trying to put us
in a box, and define us based upon their views and upbringing,
underestimating our capabilities and our abilities."
She said she has had to reach deep many times not to allow herself to be
placed in a box, and that she is very careful to keep obstacles in her
life from becoming challenges.
"But once I recover, I remember that it's all about perspective," she
said. "And I also think about all the women that have opened doors and
sacrificed so much, to include the ultimate sacrifice."
She named several women who inspire her, including family members,
former prime minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, former
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Air Force Materiel Command
Commander Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, as well as Esther Blake, the first
woman in the Air Force.
One young woman in particular sticks out in her mind, though.
"To be part of the Air Force and to see these changes and these new
milestones is a privilege," she said. "But I will also name one more
person. Even though I did not know this young lady, she comes to mind
often. That young lady is A1C Elizabeth Jacobson."
Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson was assigned to the Security Forces
Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas when she deployed to Iraq
in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While providing convoy security
support on Wednesday September 28, 2005 in Safwan Iraq, Jacobson's
vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, killing her. She became the
first Security Forces Airman, as well as the first female Airman, killed
in the line of duty during OIF. She was 21.
"This young lady had only been in Iraq for three months, and gave the
ultimate sacrifice," Hughes said. "Serving her country during a time
when I'm sure most of her friends said she was crazy for being there."
She concluded by making an appeal to her audience.
"Figure out if what is before you is an obstacle or a challenge, to
include your self-imposed blind spots," she said. "I ask that you do not
allow people to put you in a box, unless for the moment, it is needed.
Then you work it by using it as a motivator understanding all the while
that there is more to your journey than entering the room."