Women continue to serve as barriers fall

  • Published
  • 103rd Airlift Wing
In 1973, Cynthia Firsick became the first woman to enlist in the Connecticut Air National Guard. She rose her right hand and took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, just as he male counterparts had. Firsick would go on to pave the way for thousands of women who have served in the Connecticut Air National Guard.

In the 44 years since Firsick enlisted, much has changed for women serving in the United States military. Like many women who enlisted during that time, Cynthia Firsick worked as a personnelist. Today, many female service members continue to work in clerical positions; however, unlike Cynthia Firsick, women currently serving in the Air National Guard are not limited to certain jobs due to their gender.

In 1991, Congress authorized women to fly in combat missions and serve on combat ships. In 2004, Col. Linda McTague became the first woman to command a US Air Force fighter squadron. Most recently, in 2016, the Department of Defense opened all jobs to women without exceptions; the decision came after three female soldiers successfully graduated from Army Ranger school.

Connecticut native Vivian Abalan served in the Women’s Army Air Corps (WAC) during World War II. When reflecting on her service during an interview for the WWII Veterans History Project, she stated that she “became a lot more politically minded and listened to the news on everything that was going on around the world” and “really became interested and involved in everything” that she hadn’t been before.

Serving in the military can positively impact the life of a young woman. 1st Lt. Jennifer Pierce,
103rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Officer, values the leadership skills she gained by serving as an Air Force Reservist and later as an Air National Guardsman.

“I think it’s been a great experience, especially when I had a full-time civilian job,” said Pierce. “I could really see the difference in leadership styles and I’ve been fortunate in my military career where I’ve been under excellent leadership.”

Cynthia Firsick and Vivian Abalan enlisted, because they wanted to serve their country. While women’s roles in the military have changed dramatically in the years since Abalan and Firsick enlisted, for Pierce, the motivation for enlisting was the same.

“My goal was just to have the chance to serve my country,” said Pierce. “I started looking into it and realized the benefits of joining the Reserves; you can pay for college, while serving your country, so I thought it was a good thing to do.”

Airman 1st Class Roxanne Kongkiat, who joined the Connecticut Air National Guard in 2016, was inspired to serve in the military by people who were close to her and now she wants to inspire others.

“I was inspired by a family member,” said Kongkiat. “My uncle served in the Marine Corps for over 20 years. I also knew someone who joined who I was very close to. Whenever I saw a woman in uniform, I saw a woman who was strong, and didn’t take anything from anybody. My goal is to grow and to be able to inspire other people, specifically women.”

Boundaries for women have been pushed to a point where some now feel that the boundaries are nearly non-existent. According to Pierce, women who want to join the military should not let perceived barriers discourage them.

“I don’t feel like there’s anything that I wouldn’t be able to do, that I want to do,” said Pierce. “Women are pushing barriers all the time. I mean, for the first time ever, women went to Ranger school and they are starting to get into special ops. You may face obstacles, you may not, but why would you let the possibility of that happening keep you from doing what you want to do?”