We can do it: Women of maintenance

  • Published
  • By by Airman 1st Class Erica Stewart
  • 36th Operations Group public affairs
Picture someone under the glare of the burning sun on the flightline for up to 12 hours, a patchwork of grease stains covering their coveralls as they climb into the thick underbelly of a B-52 Stratofortress, tools and knowledge in hand, in an attempt to fix whatever issue has gone south inside of the revered but over 40-year old flying machine.

One's mental picture might be that of a strapping man, different from the actual picture of Airman Alisha Gogocha, deployed B-52 crew chief from Barksdale, La.

The crew chief's job can include servicing oil, hydraulic reservoirs, and inspections before and after a plane flies, as well as making the jet safe for maintenance, changing tires, and brakes and fixing minor components.

This stereotype poses a challenge for some women in the predominantly male maintenance career field.

One of those challenges could be that some believe that women are innately weaker than men.

"Even though I'm a female, I can carry a tool box just a well as any of the men out there," said Airman Gogocha.

Airman Gogocha has been in the Air Force for almost two years and joined the maintenance career field because she wanted to do something more hands-on than other careers traditionally taken by women.

"I grew up in New Mexico hanging out with my two brothers, one of which is in the Air Force the other joined the United States Army, and after that, I felt as though I needed to do a hands-on job," she said.

After rough-housing with her brothers for years, the Airman wasn't afraid of getting her hands dirty and felt that her calling was in aircraft maintenance.

"We fix minor components like wiper blade motors, windows, paint, new seat cushions, privacy curtains; anything to make it more comfortable for the passengers," Airman Gogocha said. "I suppose if I were a little more dainty and afraid of getting dirty then I'd have trouble with this job, and as long as you do your share of the work, they treat you no different than anybody else."

This is true now for the women in aircraft maintenance as well as the women from decades before.

"I've seen just as many men not able to move an 80-lbs tool box as women," said Chief Master Sgt. Carolyn Forester, Acting 36th Maintenance Group superintendent. "Never say that you can't do something and, as long as you show them that you're willing to be part of a team, they'll accept you."

Chief Forester has been in the Air Force for almost 30 years and joined as the only female in her shop as fuel systems maintenance Airman.

"I didn't see a female in my career field for about four years," the Chief said. "But only a few people ever gave me a hard time because the men I worked with became like brothers and they respected what I could do."

Now, just as then, being a female in the maintenance career field can be a challenge but, if you hold your own, you can take the career as far as you want to, Chief Forester said.

"Don't believe you can't do it, go to school and press along. If you want to stay in and be a chief then stay in and do it, don't close any doors and don't give up."

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