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Making moves in maintenance

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alan Ricker
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs

While the Air Force continues to strive toward policies and practices for a more inclusive and diverse force, the women of the 15th Wing Maintenance Group are leading the change.

Currently, several experienced female Airmen are acting as directors of operations and production superintendents within the 15th Maintenance Operations, 15th Maintenance Squadron, and 15th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Working within maintenance for over 23 years, Capt. Carrie Schwartz has had first-hand experience with several aircraft throughout her enlisted and commissioned officer career and continues to lead as the 15th MXS director of operations.

“I think [maintenance] is something that grows on you and you fall in love with,” said Schwartz. “It has its own unique challenges – you’re working on a hot flightline and doing hard jobs, but there’s a satisfaction in being able to resolve issues and find that broken thing and fix it.”

Schwartz has seen a positive change within the maintenance culture after facing her own unique challenges that come with being a woman in a male-dominated career field and hopes that the number of female maintainers will continue to grow.

“I would say, culturally, there’s been a lot of growth in the maintenance career field – I think back in the day it was not always welcoming to females,” said Schwartz. “It was very challenging, and it was like you had to work twice as hard to prove yourself than somebody else.”

Senior Master Sgt. Amber Spear, with 21 years of back shop maintenance experience, is a non-destructive inspection Airman by trade and is now the 15th MXS lead production superintendent and squadron assistant superintendent.

“Our Production team collaborates with multiple agencies to correct any discrepancies and repair aircraft and there is a large sense of accomplishment.” said Spear. “Before, I was a small piece of the puzzle – or rather, that was my area of responsibility; now I am making those decisions at a higher level with larger impacts with a great team.”

Spear recently was a part of a “Women and Maintenance” panel, supporting an opportunity for discussion and growth within their own maintenance community.

“We actually had more males in attendance than we did females and it was great because you can learn something from everybody,” said Spear.

When Senior Master Sgt. Jessica De La Mora joined in 2001, her superintendent at the time suggested she change career fields as fast as possible.

“I wanted to prove her wrong,” said De La Mora. “I wanted to prove that anyone could succeed in their profession with grit and determination no matter what their gender happened to be.”

She is now the 15th AMXS lead production superintendent.

“Every day brings a new challenge that we get to solve, and some of that is mentoring the people on our team to get to the right answer, and some of it is us leading the way and trying to find a good way forward,” said De La Mora. “Whether it’s aircraft, people, manning, planning for aircraft and missions, and supporting the rapid global mobility [mission] is huge.”

1st Lt. Bethany Reeves commissioned in 2019 and is now the 15th MXO director of operations, working with scheduling analysis, unit deployment managers, quality assurance and maintenance training managers.

“In maintenance, in general, we can work long hours, the job is tedious and it’s a lot of “go, go, go” and not a lot of recognition,” said Reeves. “What I try to do is give people the credit where it’s due and do whatever I can to make life easier for them. Being there for people is the most rewarding part of my job.”

Reeves explained that she never feels like an outcast when in meetings with primarily male leadership and believes she is capable of doing anything.

“I believe that if you know who you are and what you stand for, you’re doing the right job, you’re doing what you’re supposed to – I think that’ll take you so far into the future,” said Reeves.

Master Sgt. Monique Lovejoy has served in the Air Force for 14 years and is currently filling a support function leading as the 15th MXO production superintendent.

“My team touches every facet of maintenance, but more behind the scenes,” said Lovejoy. “Every day is different – it’s like an adventure, and usually by the end of it I’m like, ‘whoa, what just happened?’”

Lovejoy did experience challenges that come with being a female in the demanding maintenance career field, but with time, has found that she is not fighting for a seat at the table and leads as a senior noncommissioned officer.

“Some of us, we’re still trying to figure out what to do with our hands, even in this leadership position,” said Lovejoy. “Just do it scared. Don’t let fear paralyze you and just do it anyway.’

“If you mess it up – that’s okay,” continued Lovejoy. “This is maintenance, we fix things.”

Maj. Kori Johnson has been a maintenance officer for nearly ten years and currently serves as the 15th AMXS director of operations, leading and managing sortie production for Hickam’s C-17 Globemaster IIIs.

“We’re in charge of performing the maintenance for everyday flightline use and getting the aircraft in the air,” said Johnson.

Johnson described that being a part of a maintenance leadership team with a high level of female influence is inspiring and exciting to experience.

“[Maintenance] is not necessarily a typical route for ladies, and what I hope for the future is that it doesn’t matter,” said Johnson. “We're all very intertwined.”