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Women in the U.S. Air Force

January 16, 2019

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I know very little about military life, but after reading an in-depth article about four young women at an air base in the middle of a desert on the Arabian Peninsula I was very impressed.

Home Sweet Home: the air base is packed with metal-and-concrete buildings surrounded by a high fence and desert

This informative piece appeared in Allure magazine’s Freedom 2018 issue and was written by Mac McClelland, a talented female journalist and author who has done a splendid job describing life on the Al Dhafra Air Base where, when the wind blows, it feels like a 110-degree hair dryer.

To obtain a balanced picture of life on the air base, which is 20 miles south of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the author spent many hours with women who have a lot of responsibility. The result is an overview of what life is really like on a daily basis. Take a look – it’s formidable. 

Captain Elizabeth Maksim, 32 is the senior intelligence officer on Al Dhafra and is married. However, after three deployments Maksim and her husband are used to these separations. In college, she joined ROTC to obtain help with her tuition. She then left the military to go to grad school and get a master’s degree. This was followed by three years in a marketing job. After that she decided to reenlist for full-time active duty in the military.

Captain Elizabeth Maksim, 32, the senior intelligence officer, is out for a morning run before the heat hits

“I love what I do,” say Maksim. “I like serving my country and also, there are a lot of nice things about deployment. It gives you time to focus on yourself.” She works in the “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” for 12 to 14 hours a day. Maksim looks at maps and computers to keep her superiors apprised of what’s going on. “It’s a lot of pressure,” she says. Pilots’ missions are planned around her intel (info) so if she misidentifies a threat (or misses one) people could die. “I wanted to come back to the military because I knew people trusted what I told them. I felt like my opinions mattered.” In 2011, she was the intel lead on the B-2 stealth bombing of Libya.

Staff Sergeant Rhoniesha Seubert, 24 works in an area where they keep the bombs for Operation Inherent Resolve – as the war with ISIS is called (it is largely an air war). This base is one of the spots called “home” for the planes that are used for this assignment.

Seubert spends all night – almost every night – in a quiet office sitting at one of three computers coordinating and logging movements of people and weaponry in the “Munitions Storage Area.” On Thursdays and Fridays after work, she heads to the Community Activity Center (CAC) where three shots at the bar are $9.00 – three is the maximum number of drinks allowed per person, per day on this base. 

Staff Sergeant Melissa Kirkbride, 30 is the only female engineer in her unit and one of only two female engineers on the entire base. She enlisted partly for the travel opportunities and educational assistance the military offered. Now she is on her 99th combat flight as the engineer on a massive aerial-refueling tanker carrying 100,000 lbs. of jet fuel into the airspace over Iraq. 

“I really love what I do, though the deployment (assigning people in various locations) is high,” Kirkbride says. This is her sixth one. Once she did four in 13 months.

Senior Airman Erica Webster, 23 is a ground-communications technician who sets up and maintains the cockpits and communications links for pilots who fly drones. “It’s cool to be with flights that are actually flying,” says Webster.

Senior Airman, Erica Webster, 23, a communications technician, is ready for her day

FREE? That’s the key word that comes up over and over. All four have this in common: Personal space. Adventure. College classes. World travel.

And they all love their work!

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

All photos: Courtesy of Allure


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