Success has no limit for women in the Air Force
By Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer, 20 Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 06, 2018
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- As the sun rises and liquid nitrogen heats up in the metal shop, an Airman puts bearing cups from an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon into the substance so the bearing cup expands and comes apart. She proceeds to snap on her gloves, glasses and apron to prepare for another day.
Replacing bad bearing cups on aircraft, welding, responding to calls about unstuck screws and creating new parts from metal are all part of the daily work life of Airman 1st Class Sondra Saul, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician apprentice.
Although Saul is the only female in her shop, the Air Force works to be a very diverse and welcoming environment where anyone can achieve any goal they become qualified for, uninhibited by social discriminations which may occur in the civilian world.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve done because I came from nothing,” said Saul.
Saul says she enjoys her job because she does not usually see many females in her career field, so it makes her more competitive and really want to show out. Every day in the metal shop is something new and different, everyday a new challenge.
From 6:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saul says her competitive nature pushes her to work hard and catch up to the advanced crew members in her shop by practicing using tools like the lade, which cuts metal, to match a blueprint the shop is given. She cleans and helps out where she can.
The whole shop is like a family, said Saul. Everyone who’s been there for a long time likes to help the new Airman and mentor them into their own craftsman.
“I don’t know what it is about maintenance guys but they are very family oriented so they really look out for me and make sure I get where I need to be,” said Saul. “I got really lucky.”
Saul said she does not try to compete with anyone in the shop; she is just there to become proficient.
Being the only female she also does not have to compete to stand out.
“It’s actually like a breath of fresh air, because you don’t have to do more to stand out,” say Saul. “I just have to come to the job and do my best.”
Staff Sgt. Hayden Faulkenberry, 20th EMS aircraft metals technician journeyman, said Saul got here in September and has been picking up the craft quickly.
“She’s definitely one of the better ones and I can tell she enjoys her job very, very much,” said Faulkenberry.
Although her coworkers and boss say she does a great job, there are still a few differences with a female in the shop.
“It hasn’t affected anything whatsoever, but I cross trained,” said Faulkenberry. “One of the big things is locker space because we can’t just go change in the back anymore.”
Faulkenberry continued, having a female in the shop definitely adds some unique qualities to the shop but doesn’t inhibit them.
Saul is just one the many examples of how a woman, or anyone, can achieve any career field they set their mind to, so long as they are qualified. The Air Force works so that race and sex are not an issue; the Air Force only looks at who has put in the work.