4 Women Share How The Air Force Prepared Them For Any Challenge, On The Job And In Life

What comes to mind when you think of the Air Force? You might picture fighter jets barrel-rolling in the sky, or a captain giving a thumbs-up as he or she climbs into the cockpit. While the Air Force certainly employs many brave pilots, it also employs thousands of individuals in all different kinds of fields, including jobs you have probably never associated with the Air Force. In partnership with the United States Air Force, we talked to a diverse group of female officers who fill a wide array of roles within the organization, including a clinical nurse, a program manager who ensures the safety of aircraft prior to take-off, a personnel officer and even an expert meteorologist.

These women prove that serving as an empowered and inspiring member of the Air Force doesn't have to fit one mold. Almost any background or interest can be applied, and some of these women have found the military to be a great place to have a career and family. What they all have in common, however, is that they have gained skills as Airmen — yes, both men and women in the Air Force are Airmen — that serve them both in their jobs and in their everyday lives. Read on for how these women are now prepared for any challenge life might throw at them.

Lt. Tiffany Richmond

What She Does: When you think of jobs in meteorology, you think of a weather reporter on the news. But Lt. Tiffany Richmond, a weather operations officer, plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of air missions by forecasting weather conditions for F-16s and F-35s, as well as managing 18 staffers.

How The Air Force Has Prepared Me For Any Challenge: "I’ve learned more about myself in the Air Force than I ever could have imagined, just going through the challenges of being a mother and being a woman in the work force. I feel very fulfilled every day. I always go home satisfied with what I’ve done at work."

A Common Misconception About The Air Force: "I’ve heard some people say that joining the military is their 'last resort' — because they'd rather get an education and find a 'real' career in the corporate world. To them, the military is almost like a backup. I always find that’s really sad because you can find all of those things in the Air Force — you can get your education free, and there are a lot more benefits than people think. The experiences and growth you receive in the military can only help you in the outside world. Even if you do your four years of service and get out, you’ve definitely taken something from that that you can use for the rest of your life. The military was my No. 1 choice. If that’s your dream and your goal, I don’t think that should be looked down upon."

Lt. Leigh E. Cannon

What She Does: Lt. Leigh E. Cannon works as a clinical nurse on the inpatient side of the hospital at Travis Air Force Base. Stationed on the surgical floor, Cannon treats patients before and after they get out of surgery. Cannon works tirelessly to establish a plan of care for her patients and get them well enough to return home.

How The Air Force Has Prepared Her For Any Challenge: "The Air Force has given me more confidence, especially when speaking publicly. My decision-making skills have improved, which sounds vague, but I feel more confident because of my experiences with the Air Force and ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps]. I also feel more aware of other people. [The Air Force] stresses over and over again: Take care of your airmen. As a nurse, I try to ask [patients] about family situations, I'm more open to and conscious of how others are doing around me. Before the Air Force, I was more focused on myself, to be honest."

A Common Misconception About The Air Force: "Well, most people automatically assume you’re a pilot. I have to say, everyone who finds out I’m a nurse in the Air Force, they kind of get confused. They ask, ‘Are you in the Air Force, or are you a nurse?’ My answer is, 'I’m a nurse in the Air Force.' I’m a nurse, but I’m surrounded by the Air Force. I’m in a military hospital, and I take care of military patients. I have a chain of command and an OPR [officer performance report], just like other officers. I move around, and am given the same leadership opportunities [as other Air Force members]. They seem to be really confused about how you can be, well, anything else, if it’s not directly in the plane or cockpit."

Capt. Kassandra Mangosing

What She Does: As an acquisition program manager, Capt. Kassandra Mangosing is at the forefront of the United States Air Force's mission. Her duties, which she describes as a mix between "an operations officer and a social worker" include connecting resources to ensure aircraft are ready to go and pilots take off and return safely, as well as making sure Airmen have the resources they need to not only do their jobs, but lead successful and well-rounded lives, too.

How The Air Force Has Prepared Me For Any Challenge: “Adapting to the unknown is definitely something that my career and experience in Air Force ROTC has taught me. I had no idea what to expect [as a maintenance officer], and while people can tell you all day what it’s like, you really don’t know until you get there. To find myself in a situation that was completely unfamiliar and be able to leverage my personal strengths and get to know the people around me well enough to bring out the best in them showed me that we can really face anything. And you’ll never face something alone — not in the Air Force.”

A Common Misconception About The Air Force: "People have no idea that Air Force officers can be doctors, and nurses, and engineers, and scientists, and product managers, and firefighters and all of these other different fields. So, I think that is definitely a misconception that people have, that in order to be there you have to fly. But I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot."

Lt. Jamilyn Pickrell

What She Does: As a mission support group executive officer, Lt. Jamilyn Pickrell wears lots of hats, and every single day looks different. She deals with a wide variety of issues that crop up on her base, and if she doesn't have the answer, she's the one who can point people in the direction of the person who does. She serves as the liaison between commanders, and she runs staff meetings and answers calls about anything having to do with the base.

How The Air Force Has Prepared Me For Any Challenge: "Training for the Air Force stretched me, and taught me to perform under stress and to be able to make wise, thought-out decisions that could have large outcomes affecting other people. Also, public speaking is definitely a skill I learned in the Air Force. We’re expected to, at a moment’s notice, brief a commander, brief a room, lead a promotion ceremony or anything like that."

A Common Misconception About The Air Force: "One misconception that I found somewhat comical … I don’t know if I should take offense to it or not, but I was once at a retail store, and I went to the checkout line, and there was a sign saying, 'Military Discount: Show Your Active ID.' When I showed my ID, the cashier said, 'I never would have thought you’d be in the military. You’re too pretty to be in the military.' ... There’s a huge misconception, especially in the older generation, who are surprised that females are in the military, especially as officers. It’s kind of comical, but it’s eye-opening at the same time."

Designer: Mary Blount

This article is sponsored by the United States Air Force.