TEC women students broke barriers

  • Published
  • By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- The nation celebrates Women's History Month in March every year, since 1987. The month celebrates women's accomplishments in our culture and society and includes women the military.

The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center staff and faculty gathered in a virtual meeting, March 31, to close out the month's celebrations and recognitions with a discussion and review of current women's issues and past accomplishments. 

Women were students here during the first year of enlisted leadership school, in 1970, but they served as Women in the Air Force, or WAFs.

The WAF program ended in 1976. Women then joined the class ranks at a steady increase throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Among TEC's first women students was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mary Ellen Loy, who graduated enlisted professional military education to later earn recognition as one of the Air Guard's and the U.S. Air Force's early woman Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

Additionally, the November 1970 Airman leadership school class was the Air Force's largest single graduation of WAFs in a leadership school at the time.

"Of the more than 1,000 WAF assigned and employed in a wide range of career fields in AFCS, it is significant that 22 of 38 graduates here are WAF," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Albert R. Sheily, then the Air Force Communications Service vice commander, during the graduation.

Not so strange is the fact that many of that class's top award winners were WAFs assigned under Sheily's command. In particular, Airman 1st Class Patricia J. Brennan from Maxwell AFB, Ala., was recipient of three top awards: Honor Graduate, Academic Achievement and Distinguished Graduate.

Airman 1st Class Evelyn Algarin from Richards-Gebaur Air Reserve Station, Mo., earned the Class Spokesman Award. Sgt. Lucis A. Cherry from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., was the Honor Flight commander. Sgt. Diane Coup from Sheppard Air Force, Texas; Sgt. Debra J. Dobbins from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Airman 1st Class Barbara j. Short from the 1968th Communications Squadron, S.C., were all Distinguished Graduates.