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Women serving in military symbol of equality

August 26 is Women's Equality Day, a day to commemorate and highlight women's rights in our society. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Steve Thompson)

August 26 is Women's Equality Day, a day to commemorate and highlight women's rights in our society. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Steve Thompson)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

When Geri-Anne Satterfield told her family she was going to join the Air Force, they were all for it. For Satterfield, who grew up in a military household, service was a normal part of life.

“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have an ID card,” laughed Satterfield.

In operational working as intelligence, she saw women leading as advisors and commanders-unusual at the time. She was the first female in her family to serve in the Air Force however, she was not the first woman to serve.

Satterfield’s mother served as a nurse in the Navy during World War II, a war that saw women breaking out of then traditional norms of domestic work to serve their country in a time of crisis. With the iconic “Rosie the riveter” as their symbol, these brave women provided invaluable contributions to the war effort and demonstrated they were capable of fulfilling traditional male roles.

It was a turning point for women in society, and shortly after the war their service helped convince Congress to pass the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948, allowing women permanent status in the military and entitlement to benefits.

While women were integrated in the armed forces, for some years expectations for them differed from men. It wasn’t until Satterfield’s flight in basic training that women were trained to use firearms.

“We didn’t get any special treatment. They explained that we needed to know how to handle a weapon, although I’m not a gun person,” said Satterfield.

Staff Sgt. Montie Butler, 50th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of the squadron’s armory, is very much a gun person.

As a female service member and a firearms expert, her passion stands against the preconception that affinity towards firearms is supposed to a “men’s hobby."

“The stereotype that women are not supposed to like firearms doesn't bother me at all,” said Butler. “In my opinion I think that it is important that we break societal norms while serving in the military. It makes wings, groups and squadrons stronger because we bring different things to the table.”

Once exclusively serving supportive roles, such as nurses and administrators, women’s roles in the military have grown significantly.

They now serve in a variety of career fields, from infantry to pilots and top senior leaders, and while they’ve always been a part of the armed forces, they now are integral to the foundation of the U.S. military.

“I think women come with a leadership perspective that may be different from men sometimes, but just as important,” said Maj. Latoya Smith, 50th Comptroller Squadron commander. “However, it’s not the gender of the individual, it’s the personality, the background, the experience, and the ability to adapt to their career fields. I believe women are capable of performing in any career field.”

With the Department of Defense’s decision this year to allow women to serve in combative roles, including special forces, the career field for women service members has broadened evermore.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction for our military,” said Senior Master Sgt. Patricia Ford, 50th Communications Squadron superintendent. “It has allowed the military to grow by expanding opportunities. It’s good to see these combat career fields have opened up to all service members who want to pursue them.” 

The future for female service members is almost directly in line with that of their male counterparts, equal in expectations, acting as one regardless of the individual’s gender.

“Growing up, I remember being told I couldn’t do things because I was a female,” said Ford. “It’s all about overcoming those hurdles to realize that anything is possible. If you have the will, the strength and the fortitude, move forward and prove others wrong and prove yourself wrong.

"A girl can be anything they want, and the military is following this by showing that women are strong and confident and just as dedicated as anybody else,” said Ford.

The impressions left on Satterfield in 1979 still resonate today, as the Air Force and the U.S. military continue to lead the way for advancing women in higher positions and equating their rights with their male counterparts.

Women’s Equality Day and Diversity Day are being celebrated Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the indoor running track.