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How EPME women progressed AF leadership

Noncommissioned Officer Leadership school 71-2L, with 22 Women in the Air
Force, or WAFs,  and staff in November 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and
Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville,
Tenn. NCO leadership school was the precursor to today's Air Force Airman
leadership school. This class was also reported as the largest single
graduation of WAFs in a leadership school to date, and these women were the
first to attend classes at the TEC. They graduated Nov. 27, 1970. Women were
accepted on an equal basis with men in 1976, and the WAF program ended.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo)

Noncommissioned Officer Leadership school 71-2L, with 22 Women in the Air Force, or WAFs, and staff in November 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tenn. NCO leadership school was the precursor to today's Air Force Airman leadership school. This class was also reported as the largest single graduation of WAFs in a leadership school to date, and these women were the first to attend classes at the TEC. They graduated Nov. 27, 1970. Women were accepted on an equal basis with men in 1976, and the WAF program ended. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

Airmen eat during their assignment to leadership school in 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tenn. Twenty-two Women in the Air Force, or WAFs, were in the class. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

Airmen eat during their assignment to leadership school in 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tenn. Twenty-two Women in the Air Force, or WAFs, were in the class. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

A female Airman leads the formation of Noncommissioned Officer Leadership School 71-2 L, with 22 Women in the Air Force, or WAFs, in 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tenn. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

A female Airman leads the formation of Noncommissioned Officer Leadership School 71-2 L, with 22 Women in the Air Force, or WAFs, in 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tenn. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

Sgt. Lucis A. Cherry, Airman 1st Class P. Linberg and Airman 1st Class A. Kraft, wait for inspection during leadership school. The airmen were among 22 Women in the Air Force, or WAFs, in 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tenn. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

Sgt. Lucis A. Cherry, Airman 1st Class P. Linberg and Airman 1st Class A. Kraft, wait for inspection during leadership school. The airmen were among 22 Women in the Air Force, or WAFs, in 1970 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tenn. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- The next class of graduates in the U.S. Air Force Airman Leadership School take their diplomas tonight here, August 26, in a banquet on the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.

There are women in the ranks but few will pay a mixed-gender class much attention, even on Women's Equality Day

That's partly because enlisted women in leadership studies is hardly out of the ordinary; in fact, it's common at what is the Air Force's largest and longest running enlisted professional military education center.

Women on this campus are as much groundbreakers in that equality as others the nation honors today.

The day celebrates women's right to vote, but achievements beyond that are also celebrated. The Women's Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 and public laws in 1967 and 1976 were also big enablers for women in the military.

The integration act gave women the right to serve in the military outside of wartime, but, unlike today, they could not serve on ships or aircraft or in combat. The law in 1967 took away promotion restrictions and the limits on their numbers. In 1976 they entered the military academies.

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 - past flight photos show this very well.

Their unequal ratio did not, however, deter them from stepping forward and distinguishing themselves in enlisted professional military education. Matter of fact, the year women first arrived on campus set a mark not broken for some time.

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.

We should celebrate these women for their determination, as well as celebrate others who gradually transformed women's equality to what the campus now enjoys. Congratulate those women in the ranks of leadership graduates tonight too.