Women's History Month: Why We Celebrate

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

Women’s History Month is a time to reflect and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of women throughout history. During the month of March, we pause to remember and honor the women who have served in or with the Armed Forces. This year’s theme is “Honoring Trailblazing Women Who Have Paved the Way for Future Generations.”    

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act establishing the United States Air Force as an independent service. A year later, he signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, authorizing women to serve as full members of the U.S. Armed Forces. On July 8, 1948, Staff Sgt. Esther Blake became the first female to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. She enlisted on the first hour of the first day women were approved to serve. Her action opened the doors for future military women to accomplish other firsts.

Through the years, 1.6 million women have followed in her footsteps and have selflessly contributed to the success, strength and readiness of our great nation. One such trailblazer was Chief Master Sgt. Grace Peterson. In 1960, she became the first female Chief Master Sgt. as part of the original group of Senior NCOs to be selected for the rank. Almost 54 years later, a group of women Airmen from One Grand Forks Air Force Base accomplished another first and completed the “Flight of the Lady Hawk.” This flight became the longest military aircraft flight without air refueling on record. By keeping their United States Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk aloft for 34.3 hours, this all-female crew, which consisted of aviators and support personnel, both active duty and civilian, shattered a record. Like Chief Master Sgt. Peterson, their efforts have continued the forward movement of gender equality both in and out of the military.

Most recently, the Department of Defense again leveled the playing field and opened all occupations and positions to women. So far, 12 female Airmen have stepped up to the challenge to enter the battlefield airmen career fields. Their drive to push through the gender ceiling is a meaningful reflection of the 214,908 women serving in the U.S. military. Additionally, the Defense Manpower Data Center reports that women comprise 48 percent of the DoD civilian workforce, 42 percent of the enlisted corps and 10 percent of the officer corps. The Air Force Personnel Center reports women make up 19.4 percent of the Air Force ranks, with 60,908 proudly serving.

During Women’s History Month, we recognize the contributions, growth and change of all the incredible women who came before us. Those who have served with dignity and pride, and who paved the way for future generations.