Military women share success stories

by Kori Koch

More women are entering historically male-dominated positions of the U.S. military, and the environment for women is improving, female Air Force officers told area Air Force ROTC cadets Saturday at the University of St. Thomas.

The event, A Salute to Women in Aviation, brought a crowd of approximately 60 to the campus. Female officers at the event said military women are surpassing gender barriers, balancing personal lives and building strong careers.

Though obstacles might occur in their careers, the speakers told attendees – many of whom were from the University of Minnesota – that knowledgeable and hard-working women can succeed.

Lt. Col. Vikki Getchell, of the Minnesota Air National Guard, said she ignored several failed attempts at flight school but later became the first female pilot for the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

Tanya Nosenko, a University of Minnesota first-year student, said the speakers all had positive attitudes about pursuing military careers.

“All presenters were highly qualified role models,” she said.

Women who started in the Air Force ROTC program and are now serving in the Air Force also spoke.

Capt. Andrea McElvaine and Capt. Catherine Platt told their stories about serving in operations in Iraq.

Although many women spoke of discouraging hardships they had experienced, others provided optimistic outlooks for young cadets.

Lt. Col. Barbara Anderson was a flight nurse for the Minnesota Air National Guard for 15 years.

“I’ve always been treated with total respect. You can’t always say that about careers in the civilian world,” she said.

Erin Frederickson, a University of Minnesota junior, said young women in the Air Force today have obvious advantages over those in the past.

“There’s definitely less of a glass ceiling,” she said.

Kenneth Winters, a University of Minnesota first-year student, said the presenters gave a good perspective.

“I’m now aware of what I can do to help others prosper,” he said.

Air Force Master Sgt. Lin Davidson said sacrifice and service are important aspects of the military experience.

“As you get older, serving the community becomes a priority. We’re looking out for our future leaders,” she said.

Leah Lehmkuhl, a University of Minnesota senior in the Air Force ROTC program who is studying international business, said she’s ready to see where the military will take her.

“It was cool to see the transition in speakers, from older women who’ve paved the way to younger ones,” she said.