Women in the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Amy Kemp Butler
  • Ogden Air Logistics Center History Office
Women have been a valuable asset to the military from World War II onward. Many have put their lives on the line and dedicated themselves to protect this country and help others. Many of these women have been and continue to be employed here at Hill Air Force Base. One of these courageous women is Judy Ricks.

Ricks was a welder in a refinery in the early 1970s and was looking forward to working in a shipyard before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1979 when she was stationed at Castle Air Force Base, Calif.

What she wanted to do more than anything before then was work on "big" airplanes. She was able to do as she wished because of the experience and knowledge she had from working in the refinery. She was asked many times if she had cross-trained into her field, which to their astonishment, her answer was "No."

She was active duty at Castle AFB for eight years with the Strategic Air Command, launching and recovering the KC-135A Stratotankers. She was a member of the first all-woman KC-135A ground and flight crew holding the crew chief position in charge of maintenance of the aircraft. The "A" series KC-135 had turbojet engines, creating all the thrust from the core of the engines instead of 80 percent of the thrust by fan as on the newest turbofan engines. The KC-135A series could carry almost 220,000 pounds of fuel while the aircraft itself only weighed about 145,000 pounds. In order to take off, the aircraft was designed to burn water which made the air denser, creating more thrust to lift the aircraft's fuel weight and basic weight. Ricks was in charge of making everything mechanical run smoothly.

Out of a maintenance wing of approximately 9,000, there were only nine or 10 women among them, including Ricks. When asked how they were treated by their co-workers, she said, "The majority supported us, especially through leadership and the maintenance community. Because of this support, that is why we are where we are today."

When asked about her experiences when in the all-woman ground and flight crew, she said there were too many to pick one. She said, "We went TDY (temporary duty away from home station) a lot with the Pacific Tanker Taskforce. The F-16s couldn't make it over the Pacific without a tanker. We would be gone four months at a time. One mission, we left on a Sunday and didn't get into a real bed till the next Thursday. We slept on the aircraft in the crew bunk. We flew to Minot (N.D.) and spent four hours on the ground in Minot where we changed an engine water pump. We then flew to Hawaii where we changed the engine angle driveshaft for the accessory drive. On our way to Guam, we had a seal leak and spent eight hours in air. When we landed in Guam we had to add 22 quarts of oil when the engine held about 30 quarts. We flew lots of missions over there."

After her service with the Pacific Tanker Taskforce she became an aircraft maintenance instructor at Castle AFB and also in Guam under the then-Air Training Command. Concluding her service in Guam she moved to Dyess AFB, Texas, where she designed and built computer-based training for B-1B Lancer bomber crews. Ricks now works as an instructional designer at Hill AFB.

Ricks, with her admirable service, as well as many other women serving in the Armed Forces and as Civilian Civil Servants, is worthy of recognition and congratulations, especially this month. With their heroic efforts, the U.S. military and government female personnel continue to be a diversified and significant asset to our nation.