It has been almost 65 years since Staff Sgt. Esther Blake became the “first woman in the Air Force”, and paved the way for countless women to come after her. Women have joined the U.S. Air Force under various career fields, and many hold jobs that are generally considered male-only fields. This series will recognize these pioneering women who are leading the way for future female Airmen and the Air Force in general.
Tech. Sgt. Shaina Hernandez, 355th Maintenance Operations Squadron loading standardization crewmember is one of Approximately 20 female maintenance members here.
As a weapons loader for the A-10, Hernandez works with a team of men to get the everyday Air Force mission complete.
“There are five load crews, and within those load crews there are teams of three,” Hernandez said. “So, you really get to bond with your crew. It’s nice. It’s like a brotherhood, and I really enjoy that aspect of it, as well as getting my hands dirty and working on the aircraft.”
Hernandez has been a load crewmember for 15 years, and says within the male-dominated career field it takes time to prove yourself.
“There’s always the stigma ‘Can she do it or is she just going to be a girl about it?’”, Hernandez said. “Be a go getter, always volunteer to do the work or do the hard jobs the heavy lifting.”
One of Hernandez’s biggest accomplishments is being chosen for the lead standardization crew.
“In our career field, it’s one of the highest positions,” she said. “We are basically the lead. So when questions come up, they are going to come to us. It’s not about us having the most knowledge, but we just need to know where to get the knowledge. We rely on our other crews and our regulations, so it’s a very prestigious job in this career field.”
If you’re looking at coming into the Air Force and looking to become a load crew member such as Sergeant Hernandez, she recommends female’s to be prepared and to have a thick skin early on. She also recommends not to give up and do what you can.
Hernandez recommends females planning to join the Air Force as a load crewmember to be prepared to have a thick skin early on. She also recommends not giving up and doing what you can.
“I would tell girls to leave gender roles aside,” Hernandez said. “If you’re determined to do something, do it and don’t say ‘I’m doing it even though I’m a female.’ Just do it because you can.”