Women of Key Field Celebrated

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Sabrina Dalton
  • 186th Air Refuleing Wing Public Affairs
Key Field recognized and celebrated past and present female members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing as part of Women's History Month here Saturday. 

Fourteen female retirees of Key Field were honored as special guests at the program.  Cumulatively, their years of service at Key Field exceed 100 years enriching the base's history.

Each of the honorees chronicled her experiences at Key Field with personal anecdotes and heartfelt stories about times that have come and gone. 

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Clarissa Green, one of the honorees in attendance, enlisted in the 1973 as one of the first females here.  Green believed she was never treated differently because she was a woman. 

"I never felt any different than the guys. We always had a good working relationship.  Up until 2005 when I retired from Key Field, I always felt like this was my home," Green said.  "Everything I do in my civilian life reflects back to Key Field. Key Field has prepared me for life.  I can work at church and say, I learned this at Key Field." 

The opportunities for women in the military to achieve leadership positions have increased tremendously over the years.  These opportunities are owed in part to the women who were honored at the program.  Their contributions to Key Field have paved the way for more women to continue to grow and become leaders in the Air National Guard. 

"I don't know that we had female officers when these ladies were in.  This is the legacy that they have left for us," Senior Master Sgt. Nina Trotter, 186th Air Refueling Wing human resources advisor, said.  "Ladies like Clarissa Green and Joanie Goodin helped to build a foundation for me and the other women here at Key Field."

Green paid tribute to some of the other retirees present and to one who recently passed. 

"I owe my everything to Mrs. Pat Pickard and Mrs. Gene Henley who were civilians here who paved the way for me and made my life easier.  There was one more, Mrs. Billy East, who died in December.  These three ladies are the reason I'm here today. They served in a civilian capacity and were here many years before I came," Green said. 

Pickard started her service at Key Field in 1974 as a key punch operator and retired in communications. 

Gene Henley, known as Granny to fellow Guard members, worked in the machine room. 

"I didn't see any ladies when I was here. I couldn't ask anybody to be any finer to me than the men here. They supported me through rough times in my life, even when I had health problems.   I loved my work and I loved the people," Henley recalled. 

After leaving the Marine Corps, Dot Schachtes, who was one of the first ladies in the state to earn the rank of Senior Master Sgt, joined the Air Guard in 1974.  She worked in the accounting office and later in payroll.

"You all don't know how valuable you are to the country and how important serving your country is to you.  When you love your job, it's not a job," Green shared. 

Each honored guest relayed the same sentiment that is shared in the Air National Guard today.  Being in the Guard is like being part of a big family that takes care of each other.  It's the Wingman Concept that exists still today. 

The history of women in the military dates back to the Revolutionary War.  Women contributed to war efforts during the American Civil War as nurses and cooks.  During World War I, women served as nurses, telephone operators, and clerks.  During World War II, women served the war effort at home filling a plethora a positions such as intelligence, supply, medicine, communications, and administration. Women also played a role in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Persian Gulf War and War in Iraq.  By 1990, women commanded ships, directed bases, and flew jets.  Today, women make up 15% of the total force and make vital contributions to overseas contingency operations.

March is designated as Women's History Month by the Department of Defense.  Because the program was such a huge success, Key Field looks forward to honoring women retirees of the base this time next year.