LANGLEY AFB, Va. — There is a combined 80-plus years of military experience in the group of women from Langley Air Force Base who stopped by WTKR in Norfolk to talk about the anchor changing face of our military, how more women are championing that evolution, and just what it takes be a leader.
“You've got to be a mom, a counselor, a friend, a spouse, I mean, you're everything,” said Chief Master Sgt. Stacy Rhodes of Langley’s 42nd Intelligence Squadron.
“I feel like I am like a topsy turvy toy. Like, when you just spin it, you don't know which direction [it] is going to point in that day," added Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Alban of Langley’s 63rd Intelligence Squadron.
Alban and Rhodes do not have to look far for inspiration. Their bosses are also women. Their jobs in intelligence units are typically shrouded in secrecy.
"It's our job to kind of scrutinize all the details to make sure that we're striking the right targets, but also keeping our people safe at the same time," explained Lt. Col. Andrea Morrison, Commander of the 42nd Intelligence Squadron.
When asked what Morrison brings to her team, she didn’t hesitate to reply.
“I think, maybe, vulnerability and empathy, as a leader," she responded.
For proof of how military leadership is evolving, look at what’s happening on base in Langley. In one group, with seven commanders, five are them are women. Some fields, like intelligence, do see more women in the ranks.
“Still, throughout the military, women don't make as large of a portion as men do. But that's changing. Every day that's changing,” added Lt. Col. Libbie Shah, Commander of the 718th Intelligence Squadron.
Every day, women are leading that change, working in key roles during some of Langley's most noteworthy missions. Those missions include providing surveillance and security in the air in the days after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and this year's shoot down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast.
For Lt. Col. Shah and the others, the responsibility is great. But there is also camaraderie. It helps, they explain, to have other strong leaders, each other, to lean on. Here is their advice for women still rising through the ranks.
“Look for those mentors that can help raise you up,” Shah said. “And then when you're ready, to become a mentor to those below you."
“I think the only thing I would add is just don't be afraid to make, kind of, your own path to success. There isn't just one definition for what success is," Lt. Col. Morrison added.
For Chief Master Sgt. Stacy Rhodes, success means celebrating a milestone this week: a quarter of a century in uniform.
"25 years, actually, on March 17,” Rhodes said with a smile.