America's women at war - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

America's women at war

^ Colonel Barb Faulkenberry ^ Colonel Barb Faulkenberry

February 20, 2003

Warner Robins-- The role women in the United States Military play is larger than ever. With war a possibility in the Middle East, American females are key to the preparation.

Colonel Barb Faulkenberry is the commander of the 19th Air Refueling Group, and these KC 135's. Faulkenberry said "The average age of a KC-135 is 43- years-old. Forty-three, which is older than me. I want that on the news."

She is in charge of a 500-member unit of both sexes that fills up military aircraft with fuel while still in flight. "Women have really been fully integrated in the air refueling and cargo capacity of our Air Force for longer than I've been around," Faulkenberry said

Faulkenberry might be a surprise to some people. The 42-year-old Clearwater, Florida native is a 21-year-veteran of the Air Force, and says gender is no longer an issue. "Quite frankly, for anyone in the Air Force, this is not a big deal at all, to have a woman commander."

The KC-135 Air Refueling planes are based out of Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, and are key to missions in the Middle East and at home. Women are a big part of the Air Force buildup for war. "We fly combat missions overseas over Afghanistan, but we also do homeland defense," Faulkenberry said. "Missions right here out of Middle Georgia, for the United States, to provide Homeland Defense capability."

The Colonel just returned after 100 days in Afghanistan. She and her unit remain on alert status for deployment. Just one of the thousands of American military women ready in defense of the nation.

"We have the support of the American public, which is critical said Faulkenberry. "And so if called we will do what we are tasked to do, and do it well, and do it proudly."

The United States Air Force is one of the few capable of mid-air refueling, and this female commander will play a vital role in the defense of the nation, keeping American war planes flying.

Nineteen percent of the United States Air Force personnel are women. In 1975 there were 33,000 women in the Air Force. Today there are more than 70,000.

posted at 11:16AM by jimw@walb.com