Women's History Month - Growing Stronger

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Dreama Heath, right, receives both a Meritorious Service Medal and the 2014 177th Fighter Wing Leadership Award from Col. Kerry M. Gentry, 177th Fighter Wing commander, during a ceremony on Feb. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Amber Powell/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Dreama Heath, right, receives both a Meritorious Service Medal and the 2014 177th Fighter Wing Leadership Award from Col. Kerry M. Gentry, 177th Fighter Wing commander, during a ceremony on Feb. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Amber Powell/Released)

Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, New Jersey -- The Department of Defense is celebrating Women's History Month throughout the month of March. Ever since women were permitted to join the National Guard, around 1950, they have had a consistent presence. According to Air National Guard statistics, right now women make up approximately 18.5% of the ANG force.

The chance to serve their country and give back to their community are reasons Master Sgt. Dreama Heath and Master Sgt. Patricia Hughes joined the New Jersey Air National Guard.

"Being part of the military has made me a stronger person and has provided opportunities I wouldn't get anywhere else," said Heath, with the 177th Fighter Wing's Comptroller Flight.

Heath, who recently received an award for Leadership last month, says serving in the Air Force is rewarding, but it's not about rank or awards. "It's the pride that you are a part of something bigger and you contribute towards a better future for all of us."

Heath and Hughes have served in the New Jersey Air National Guard for a combined total of 56 years. Through that time many events have taken place in the world that have led women to take an active role in the leadership of our country.

"Women have always played a vital role in the history of the military, whether as a member or as a spouse. Being a woman in the military has been a pleasure and I take great honor in my position," said Hughes, with the 177th's Medical Group.

"I see more and more young, talented, and motivated women joining and wanting to get involved," said Hughes. "They bring a refreshing, diverse aspect to the workforce."
Even though the military offers wonderful training, there are opportunities to learn more than what's written down in a book.

"You learn new skills, but you also learn how strong you are and that you can do anything you put your mind to," said Heath. "We need to continue to demonstrate that we are an integral part of society and the military, and that we can be successful in both."

"We sometimes forget how fortunate we as women are in this great country to have the freedoms to choose what we want to do with our future," said Hughes. "We can be caregivers, mothers, leaders, office workers, even a public health technician serving this great nation. The opportunities are all there, we just have to reach out and believe that it can be obtained."

As we celebrate Women's History Month, let us be grateful for the women who have come before us to lead the way, and may we encourage each other to continue on strong as we move forward.