F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
Even when weather conditions threatened planned events, the Mighty Ninety came together at the A-01 missile alert facility near Lindbergh and on base to recognize and honor the contributions of female Airmen past and present for International Women’s Day March 8, 2023.
A fully-female flight crew, made up of pilots Capt. Amber Arbanas and 1st Lt. Amanda Lloyd, as well as flight engineer Senior Airman Kayli Rodriguez, was set to fly two missileers to the MAF at 9 a.m., but inclement weather grounded the aircraft. However, fog and freezing precipitation would not deter these teams.
“First off is the good ol' saying ‘never cancel on a forecast’ when it comes to weather, because the weather's always changing, but knowing our aircraft's capabilities and limitations is the heart of making sound judgment calls to push the mission when it comes to weather and maintenance factors like we experienced that day,” said Arbanas. “I love flying, and I love getting to share that experience with folks who otherwise don't get to fly. Seeing our side of the mission through their eyes is always a humbling reminder what a unique job we have and role we play as helicopters in Air Force Global Strike.”
For those participating, a sentiment frequently mentioned was one of appreciation for those who were involved and those who worked to put the event together.
“I feel like I work with a lot of women who go above and beyond,” said 1st Lt. Jacqueline Woods, crew commander with the 319th Missile Squadron. “It’s great to work alongside them and showcase what we do and how we accomplish the mission, so it’s an honor to be a part of what we’re doing today.”
Though later than expected, Woods and 1st Lt. Ann Belfiore, 319th Missile Squadron crew commander, made it to the MAF before 1 p.m. and took up the mantle of ensuring nuclear deterrence after a turnover with 1st Lt. Sage McDonald, 319th Missile Squadron crew commander, and 1st Lt. Ashlyn Murray, 320th Missile Squadron crew commander.
At the MAF, an all-female fire team from the 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron, were on hand to respond to any alarm in the field. The defenders, Staff Sgt. Lincoln Green and Airmen Jessica Santos-Watts and Kyla Stidham, all volunteered to participate. For them, there was an appreciation for the event and that there was an available pool of females to participate, given the typically low number of female defenders across the Air Force.
“It’s cool seeing a lot more females in security forces than I’m used to seeing,” said Green. “I’m used to being the only female and the rest of the unit are guys, so it’s great see more diversity in the career field.”
Though times have changed and opportunities for female Airmen more abundant, those who came before were responsible for paving the way for those serving today and in the future. It is an understanding that sparks appreciation for their role.
“Climbing a mountain is never easy, especially when you’re the first to map the trail,” said McDonald. “I am so thankful for the women who came before, the ones who said, ‘this isn’t good enough’ and fought back against the struggles. There’s still work to be done, but we’re closer to the top now than we have ever been thanks to those who carved the path.”
In addition to the appreciation showed by the participants, there was also a sense of pride and honor for the occasion.
“I am extremely grateful to be part of the all-female crew for Women's Day, and I think I speak for all of us when I say the weight of nuclear deterrence is something none of us take lightly,” said Murray. “To operate the Air Force's most powerful weapon system is the greatest responsibility and privilege I will ever have, and to be a woman surrounded by other strong women in a male-dominated career field is very empowering, especially when I think about how the women who came before us had to fight to be here.”