Well, it’s over and it’s been a blast. My career was varied and interesting and I thought I’d share a few of the more interesting factoids with the readers.
My first career field in the Air Force was munitions maintenance, more descriptively known as bomb loading. Now, as many recruits find out, it is extremely unwise to enter the military in “open field,” that is, without picking your job first. I did this and munitions maintenance is what I got.
Back then, many fields that had been previously barred to women had the bar dropped and munitions maintenance was one of them. New female recruits were steered toward these fields and I was one of them. This field had weight lifting requirements, but they were lowered in light of average female physical capabilities. Take that as you will and keep in mind that, having gained seven pounds in basic training, I weighed a grand total of 110 pounds upon graduation from same.
At my first duty station, Plattsburg AFB, New York, my shop had a total of 73 people. Three of them were women, counting yours truly. By the time I had been there a few months, I was the lone female. One had messed up some equipment and was consigned to indoor duty. The other became pregnant. (Later, we got another woman in the shop, who, for a time, was my roommate. More about her later.) Before my time, there had been other female loaders in the shop who had left it through similar means.
Needless to say, I had to prove myself.
I did so by the usual means: always being on time, not complaining about anything, volunteering for every crappy duty that came up--believe me, there were plenty--and doing something novel: my job.
Not complaining about one particular subject was very difficult for me. Imagine a young California girl who had only seen snow once in her life, having to work outside in an upstate New York winter everyday. My standard accoutrements were: parka (with hood), parka pants, skull cap (covering ears and neck), black beanie, long johns (top and bottom), panty hose, socks, boots, mukluks, thin gloves (for working), and black leather, fur-lined gloves (plus the usual female undies). Oh yeah, and there was my uniform. And I would still be freezing my little narrow a** off.
I remember walking to work one December afternoon in 1981—we worked the swing shift—dressed as described, freezing said a** off and talking to myself. “Why in the hell did you do this? You could be sitting in a nice warm college classroom right now. What the hell were you thinking?”
We worked in four person teams and, because of my physical limitations, my position involved more hands-on duty than brute strength. Actually, having smaller hands made it easier for me to work in this position than was so for many men.
I hated this job. But, having made the commitment, I would stick to it and bide my time. I couldn’t see myself purposely sabotaging equipment. The thought disgusted me. As for becoming pregnant, I couldn’t see myself doing that either, but for more practical reasons: why make an eighteen year commitment—a lifetime one, if you ask me--to get out of a four year one?
So there I was. Then the wheels began to turn. How could I get into the best position possible within the career field, through legal and honorable means, until the time came for me to separate from the service or cross-train (get a new job) and re-enlist? Answer: I would become an instructor.