by Martha Lockwood
Air Force News Service
3/16/2013 - FORT MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- "Things
done are won; joy's soul is in the doing." This quote from one of
Shakespeare's most ambiguous plays, Troilus and Cressida, appears to be
the constant theme behind the careers of many of the Air Force's most
Whether it was The Honorable Sheila E. Widnall, the 18th Secretary of
the Air Force (1993-97)--and the first and only woman to take the oath
of office as the secretary of any of the armed forces--who came out of
academia to answer her country's call; or Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, a
graduate of the United States Air Force Academy in engineering sciences,
who has come up through the ranks to become the Air Force's first
female four-star general; or Maj. Nicole Malachowski, who in 2006, was
the first woman pilot on the precision flying team the Air Force
Thunderbirds, the same can be said of each: One success served only to
provide the inspiration and firm foundation for the next.
The joy of doing, and a recurring theme of innovation, is also the
distinguishing theme throughout others' careers, as well. The four
following highlighted careers are, like the three mentioned above, women
who put a human face on Air Force excellence. Whether it's in academia,
service, or leadership, whether they serve stateside or overseas, in
times of peace or theatres of conflict, these are very human and
Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog is a solid example of building one's successes
on a firm foundation of excellence in academia, service, and
leadership. She began her career in ROTC, where she emerged as a
distinguished graduate in 1978. Her work at unit, major command, and Air
Staff level in various positions has included commanding several large
security forces units, a technical training group, and one of the
largest training wings in the U.S. Air Force, at Lackland Air Force
Base, Texas. She was the director of Security Forces, Headquarters, U.S.
Air Force, Washington, D.C.; and prior to her current assignment, she
was the commander, 2nd Air Force, Keesler AFB, Miss.
Concurrently, she was pursuing her education -Squadron Officer School,
Maxwell AFB, Ala.; a master's degree in industrial psychology from
Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.; and both the Air Command and Staff
College and the Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
Today, she is the Director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
Office (SAPRO), which is the Department of Defense's single point of
accountability for all sexual assault policy matters. SAPRO reports to
the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and
As with Maj. Gen. Hertog, wholehearted involvement in the Air Force is a
defining characteristic of retired Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris' career.
More than a decade before Maj. Gen. Hertog, Major Gen. Harris also
followed a traditional path, obtaining her bachelor's degree in speech
and drama from Spellman College in Atlanta in 1964. A year later, she
was commissioned a second lieutenant after completing Officer Training
School at Lackland AFB, Texas.
After early-career assignments as an administrative officer, Harris
transitioned into the maintenance field by attending the aircraft
maintenance officer's course at Chanute Air Force Base, Ill., and
graduated as the first female aircraft maintenance officer. After a
series of maintenance supervisor assignments in Thailand, California,
and Washington, D.C., Harris became one of the first women to be an air
officer commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Following a series of equally stellar appointments throughout the world,
Harris became the first female African-American general in 1991.
Although she retired from active duty in 1997, Harris continues a
rigorous and active involvement in the Air Force. In 2010, President
Obama appointed her a member of the Board of Visitors for the United
States Air Force Academy.
Excellence in academics, service, and leadership isn't the only path to
success for women in the Air Force. And even careers that seemingly
converge, often demonstrate excellence in different ways. Two people who
were named to the first female fighter-pilot class in 1993--retired Lt.
Col. Sharon Preszler and retired Col. Martha McSally--found their
similar skills and training put to use in different arenas.
Seeing the opportunity to become a fighter pilot as full participation
in "a performance-based industry," Preszler was stationed at Spangdahlem
Air Base, Germany, upon completion of her training. There she flew
sorties over Iraq as part of Operation Northern Watch. Ultimately
becoming 20th Fighter Wing staff director and Commander's Action Group
director, Preszler credits her mother with instilling in her the idea
that she could fly planes, not just ride in them.
Col. Martha McSally was also named to that first all-female class of
fighter pilots in 1993, but it would be another year before she actually
arrived. Upon graduation in 1995, she was deployed to Kuwait where she
saw action in Afghanistan. In July 2004, when she took command of the
354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., she
became the first woman to command a fighter squadron.
There is no question that for these four women, and for the thousands of
men and women who have excelled in their own Air Force niche, joy is
found in a job well done. And inspiration. There must be an ideal to
light the way. McSally may have said it best: "...I hope I'm a role
model to both men and women because we are a fighting force and should
not be concerned with the differences between us."
(Martha Lockwood is the chief of Air Force Information Products, Defense Media Activity)