Women in the Air Force help shape Holloman history
By Mr. Arlan Ponder, 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 12, 2009
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE --
Part of a series on Women's History Month
Women in the Air Force have historically worked to ensure Alamogordo Army Air Field and Holloman Air Force Base have remained an important part of the base's history as it changed names, commands, aircraft, personnel and missions over the past seven decades.
The history of Holloman was forever changed on May 31, 1975, when Holloman's Women in the Air Force Squadron deactivated ending the long history of female Air Force members serving in separate squadrons from their male co-workers. Although, they worked in many of the same jobs as men, the women had their own squadron and commander. The practice of keeping men and women segregated dated back to World War II.
On May 10, 1943, the 758th Women's Army Air Corp Headquarters Company activated. By August 1945, the WAAC had 158 assigned women serving in various roles within the headquarters, signal office, control tower, ground gunnery school, operations, library and many other base offices.
The first of 12 Women's Air Force Service Pilots, or WASP, arrived on Sept. 13, 1943. During their service at the Alamogordo Army Air Field, WASP members trained as pilots in the L-5 and UC-78 aircraft and as co-pilots in B-17s. Following training at Holloman, the female pilots flew administrative and cross-country missions in the L-5, UC-78, and C-45, and co-piloted similar flights in the B-17 and B-26 aircraft. Law prohibited the WASP from conducting combat missions, however, many of the pilots did ferry aircraft from the manufacturing plants to military bases around the U.S. The WASP pilots also flew new aircraft such as the B-29, to prove to male pilots that these were not difficult to fly.
In September 1947, when the Air Force became a separate service, the 1,500 women in the Air Force became known as Women in the Air Force, or WAFs. This name was adopted and became official when Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948.
President Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 90-130, lifting grade restrictions and strength limitations on women in the military in 1967.
In 1972, there were 11,200 WAFs serving in the Air Force with 51 assigned to the Holloman WAF Squadron, which was under the command of 1st Lt. Janis S. Goicoechea. However, when Leuitenant Goicoechea arrived only a few years earlier she was one of only six WAFs assigned to the base.
During the early 1970s the Air Force continued to provide more career opportunities to WAF members. On April 4, 1972, Airman 1st Class Sylvia Stallings became the first WAF member of the 49th Security Police Squadron. She also became the first woman to serve in an integrated role at Holloman.
In September 1972 WAF sergeants (E-4) and staff sergeants (E-5) started attending Holloman's Noncommissioned Officer Leadership School. Sergeants Robbin L. Haggerty and Lorrie Woods were the first WAF graduates from the previously all male Holloman NCO Leadership School.
Another first for women occurred in 1973 when Holloman WAF Airman 1st Class Teresa K. Albertson became the first female Aircrew Egress Systems Mechanic in any branch of the service.
As time passed, the Air Force continued to integrate women into more career fields. By the end of 1973, WAFs served side by side with men in scientific, engineering, weather, biological, communications, electronics, data automation and many other career fields. They held most jobs in the Air Force except those, which required excessive physical strength.
In 1976, women were accepted into the military on much the same basis as men - the separate status of WAF was abolished and the United States Air Force Academy began training female pilots.
Today women continue to lead Holloman into the future serving in areas which were in the past dominated by their male counterparts.
(Information for this story provided by the 49th Fighter Wing History Office)