4 Women In The Air Force Tell Us What It Takes To Become An Officer

As a woman in the United States Air Force, Lt. Leigh E. Cannon often experiences confused looks when she describes her duties as a nurse at the hospital at Travis Air Force Base to civilians.

“People seem to be really confused about how you can be, well, anything [in the Air Force] if it’s not a profession directly in the plane or cockpit,” Cannon explained. “If they’re unfamiliar with the Air Force, the general public sometimes lumps [all members] together.”

To clear up a big misconception individuals have about the Air Force, not all members of the United States Air Force are pilots. Air Force members include mechanics, nurses, pilots, engineers, special operations officers, and more.

While Cannon shares many similar duties with other officers in the Air Force, her duties as a nurse are vastly different from that of Capt. Kassandra Mangosing, an acquisition program manager who is responsible for overseeing maintenance of fighter jets and ensuring they are safe to fly. Yet while their duties may be different, at the end of the day every person within the organization is working toward the same mission: "to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace."

We partnered with the United States Air Force to learn more about the unique personalities behind what makes this organization work. Read on to see what these four inspiring women in the Air Force have to say about what it takes to become an officer.

Captain Kassandra Mangosing

What She Does: As an acquisition program manager, Captain 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 take off and return pilots safely, as well as making sure Airmen have the resources they need to not only to do their jobs, but lead successful and well-rounded lives, too.

What Does It Take To Be An Air Force Officer? “It all comes down to being a team player. Whether you’re in aircraft maintenance or any other type of career field, you can’t do anything by yourself. You need to be able to operate with people who come from different backgrounds, think differently than you do, and who have different strengths than you do. You need to be able to funnel all of that into a single common goal, which is the mission, and take care of each other despite all of your differences. That’s the foundation of all military training ... it’s all about how can you be part of a team and how can you make that team the best it can possibly be to accomplish the mission."

Her Advice For Women Who Are Considering Joining The Air Force: “Just know who you are, and embrace who you are. Just be yourself. It paves the way for more women to be self-empowered, to be the leader they want to be and not necessarily fit into a mold.”

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, as well as managing 18 personnel.

What Does It Take To Be An Air Force Officer?: "For me, I think the number one thing is self-discipline. It takes a lot of self-discipline to be an Airman."

Her Advice For Women Who Are Considering Joining The Air Force: "Go for it! I never had the mentality that I would be treated differently because I am a woman. I’ve always felt welcomed as a woman in a leadership position. I think that it’s great to show that we have the same capabilities as any other person in the world. If you have the desire to be in a position where you want to challenge yourself and learn not only about the Air Force but about yourself, I think it’s a great position."

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 can crop up on a 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.

What Does It Take To Be An Air Force Officer? “Integrity. Being able to trust and be trusted by your fellow 'big-A Airmen' is key. By 'big-A,' I mean officers, enlisted members, civilians who work with the Air Force, our reserves, all the members of the Air Force. All of those people together create a camaraderie, a sense of family and connection, and that’s what makes the Air Force so amazing. There are so many instances you can’t even count where people have been helped by others whose only connection they share is that they served together. It’s instantaneous.”

Her Advice For Women Who Are Considering Joining The Air Force: "As an officer, people are always going to be looking at you as an example, whether you’re in uniform or out of uniform. Live with integrity and do what’s right at all times."

Lt. Leigh E. Cannon

What She Does: Lt. Leigh E. Cannon works as a clinical nurse for inpatient surgeries in a 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.

What Does It Take To Be An Air Force Officer?: "You can’t get to where you’re going if you’re not hard working ... You have to be willing to try new things, and be willing to take correction. You need to be humble and listen, be willing to learn, be willing to teach, and be willing to take criticism.

Her Advice For Women Who Are Considering Joining The Air Force: "Don’t let anyone scare you about the workload or say you can’t do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t feel like you have to be a superhero and do everything on your own. ... Reach out if you are struggling, and reach out early."

Designer: Mary Blount

This article is sponsored by the United States Air Force.