JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Women's History Month originated in 1981 when congress passed Public law 97-28, which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as "Women's History Week."
After being petitioned by the National Women's History Project, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, which designates the month of March 1987 as "Women's History Month."
This year for Women's History Month, we visited with three outstanding military Air Force women stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland: Master Sgt. Sabrina Martin, 737th Training Support Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Jennyeka Stringfield, 321st Training Squadron; and Staff Sgt. Latosha Ross, 737 TRSS.
In staying with this year's theme, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories,” which was chosen by the National Women's History Alliance, these three women have a great story.
Each shared their story and why they became a Military Training Instructor, or MTI. Collectively, the goal was to inspire change for all airmen for a positive future led by a diverse cultured Air Force.
Martin is from Houston, Texas, and was a full-time student working two jobs simultaneously. She was seeking something to provide her with a better quality of life. One day, she met her friend who had joined the Air Force, inspiring her to join. Martin saw an opportunity to attend school, have a great career, and serve her country.
“The women I am inspired by are my mother, sister, and cousin are all strong and hardworking women,” she said. “Their strength, determination, and love for their family are what motivates me to be a better woman.”
Stringfield is from Kensington, Maryland, and was attending Howard University. She was impressed with her brother, that had left to join the Air Force upon his return home,
"He walked differently, talked differently and carried himself with pride, and I was fascinated by his change."
She knew the Air Force was calling her name.
“The women I am inspired by are my mother and grandmother. As a child, I watched them both struggle and succeed with grace while continuing to help others, I’ve never seen them angry, resentful, vengeful or anything,” Stringfield said. “I live my life to reflect them daily."
Ross is from Phoenix, Arizona. She was missing something in her life until she had a deep discussion with her father. He explained the benefits of joining the Air Force, attending school, and traveling the world. She decides to take a chance, and because being fit and disciple is her desire, she takes on the challenge of a military career.
“The woman I am inspired by is my sister, her intelligence, hardworking, kindness and motivation to keep chasing my dreams and reminding me I can do anything I put my mind to,” Ross said.
At JBSA-Lackland, better known as the "Gateway to the Air Force," the job of an MTI is a demanding profession. They are the Air Force's Military Training Instructors, and they take young men and women and teach them the basic military skills crucial in making future Airmen for America's fight.
Through their professionalism, they instill in their trainees a sense of pride, integrity, and a way to succeed in just a few short weeks. Once completed with training, MTIs and their airman celebrate with a ceremony that invites family members and others to acknowledge their accomplishments.
Ross was encouraged from day one in basic. She expressed an interest in being an MTI to her leadership in Germany. The Developmental Special Duty listing came out, and that opportunity came.
"I was comfortable and enjoying Germany, but I thought twice about it and did not want to have the regret of not taking this opportunity,” she said. Since then, it has been the best job she has ever had.
Stringfield joined the Air Force right after the time in 2009 of the BMT scandal of 43 female trainees allegedly victimized by their instructors during and after basic military training (Air& Space Forces Magazine: https://www.airandspaceforces.com/magazine/almanac/). Her MTI was respectful, ensured people followed the rules, and was very professional. From that moment, she was inspired to return and be an MTI in 2019.
She submitted her package, and they declined her, but in 2020 she decided not to resubmit but instead go for an Airman Leadership School or Military Trainer Leader Instructor. She was newly married, a new parent of a young child and about to have her second child. The good news came in that she was selected to be an MTI. Becoming an MTI has been her top job in her career.
"My growth as an individual and career skills and abilities have become astronomical," Stringfield added.
Martin wanted to be a first sergeant, but she did not have the rank to become one at the time. In 2017, she wanted to cross over and become an officer.
Thinking about her choice she changed her mind because she was only doing it for a pay increase. She wanted to inspire and mentor as many people as possible before transitioning out like she was inspired. She accepted the opportunity to be an MTI because her influence would be more impactful to young Airmen just joining.
"I want to give them a good example of what a great NCO should be and what right looks like,” Martin said.
She wanted to be the face of a good leader. Her goal is to leave a great impression on the Air Force, and all three have accomplished that mission.
Martin selected the two ladies because of their pride, integrity, and their leadership. Her goal was to lead the December 2022 graduation, but that slot had already been reserved. Instead, February 2023 was offered, and she took it.
"I feel that women are strong and powerful, and what better month than to represent Black History Month and make it an all women’s command team lead into the next observance of Women's History Month," Martin said. “Everything happens for a reason. This was the first time, an all-female, all-black Commander of the Air Force Team for JBSA-Lackland was selected to lead a graduation ceremony.
These three MTIs pass on heritage by example and communicate the lessons of those who came before them. In today's young troops, there is diversity, inclusion, and equality in their future career with the Air Force. It also paves the way for future trust in parents and families to know their loved one will be ok and accepted.
Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion is more than acknowledging deference but accepting the deference, and seeing what others’ potential brings.
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance. Equity is allowing you to choose the Music” – Cynthis Olmendo
1. Air& Space Forces Magazine: https://www.airandspaceforces.com/magazine/almanac/
2. Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute: Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute - Home (defenseculture.mil)