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Maintaining a spirit of excellence – A tribute to Black History Month

(Courtesy photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans, the 97th Communications Squadron commander, commissions from Tuskegee University. Vaughans explains how she wanted to be in a position where she could make impactful changes, which influenced her to commission. (Courtesy photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans)

(Courtesy photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans, the 97th Communications Squadron commander, hugs her mother, Barbara Evans. Vaughans explains that she was always taught, no matter what she does in life, just lean on her faith and remember to maintain a spirit of excellence. (Courtesy photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans)

(Courtesy photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans)

Charles Vaughans Sr. (left) and Anthony Vaughans Sr. are seen in official military uniforms in honor of Black History Month. U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans, the 97th Communications Squadron commander, remembers her grandfather’s past and strives to continue in his footsteps. (Courtesy photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria Vaughans)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

What does Black History Month mean to me? Black History Month serves as a reminder of the struggles, challenges and hardships which my family and others like me endured in America. This is a month to honor those who have paved the way for me and have triumphed during the darkest times in our history. I am U.S. Air Force Maj. Marshalria “Marsha” Vaughans, a native to Cleveland, Ohio, and Montgomery, Alabama. I am a wife and mother of three and this is my story.

I am the youngest of four children, raised by a single parent in one of the poorest communities in the inner city of Cleveland. From a young age, my faith taught me I was “more than a conqueror” and I believed I would do great things in my life. In grade school, I would often be the only African American in my classroom. Growing up, I thought this was normal.

As I navigated through life, my environment drastically changed, but my values remained the same. I quickly learned the value of education and hard work, as my mother, grandparents and other family members worked in the cotton fields for survival.

Shortly after high school graduation, I enlisted in the Air Force as a 2S0X1, supply journeyman. My first duty station was Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska and this began the foundation of my career.

I knew that I wanted to be in a position to make an impactful change as I had numerous examples of non-effective leadership. I then commissioned through the Tuskegee University-Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, where I learned to become a better leader. This was the beginning of my officership.

As a second lieutenant, I was the Chief of Wing Protocol. My first immediate supervisor at the time was Col. David Goldfein, the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Following Goldfein, my second supervisor was Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, the former Air Education and Training commander. I must admit, it was not a traditional “first job” for a lieutenant and I had little room for error with the position I was in.

I was always taught, no matter what I do in life, just lean on faith and remember to maintain a spirit of excellence. Just as those before me, I too, must pave the way and be the example for the next generation.

In my career, I have witnessed how people can break through glass ceilings by being the best person they can be. I often say I am my own competition and must remind myself to not be my own worst enemy. I do not take for granted the privilege or the honor of serving in the Air Force. There are so many individuals, including my grandfather, mother and father, which have left footprints for me to follow. I am determined; I will not fail.

Today, I am blessed to be the commander of the 97th Communications Squadron at the 97th Air Mobility Wing, awarded best in AETC during the 2019 year. My Airmen motivate me every day to give them my best. Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion, I will continue to serve. If there was one piece of advice I could leave behind, it is “Persevere, no matter how difficult the journey may be.”