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NEWS | March 19, 2020

103rd Airmen inspire girls for aviation, STEM careers

By Airman 1st Class Chanhda Ly 103rd Airlift Wing

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. – Children lined up inside the New England Air Museum March 7 for "Women Take Flight," a celebration of Women's History Month and women in aerospace that brought women from the military and aerospace industries together to introduce girls to aviation and STEM careers.

Visitors attending the one-day event could meet female pilots, engineers and maintainers to show there is no limit on the possibilities of military careers for women.

The 103rd Airlift Wing displayed a booth where visitors could see the diverse career fields in aerospace, specifically careers women have in the Connecticut Air National Guard.

Maj. Cheryl Mead, 103rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, spearheaded the efforts and explained the importance of participating in the event.

"Sometimes people grow up in certain environments where maybe they're not exposed to certain things," said Mead. "Sometimes it's just exposure that women perform maintenance, they fly planes, they work in security forces; they do these jobs that maybe they had not have had an exposure to outside of these events."

Volunteers from the 103rd Airlift Wing explained the details of their jobs and encouraged girls to try on flight suits, helmets and headsets to showcase the importance of women in aviation.

"As members of the 103rd or as just women in general, it's important to show what women can do and to show our youth, as they come through here, what we're capable of doing," said Capt. Jennifer Artiaco, Maintenance Operations Flight commander.

The event also showcased the 377th Airlift Squadron, 439th Airlift Wing, Air Force ROTC, and Air Force Recruiting Service, providing a diverse array of opportunities to meet many women of the industry.

Mead, who has three daughters, said representation is important. "When a little girl sees other women in these roles, she'll say: 'well, there's no barriers there and that it's being done; I can do this!' "

Mead and Artiaco enlisted in the Connecticut Air National Guard before becoming officers. Mead started more than 20 years ago as an Airman 1st Class in the Force Support Squadron before commissioning into the Logistics Readiness Squadron after earning her Bachelor's degree. She oversees crew chiefs who work on the flight line and manages 25-60 people.

Artiaco began her career in 2000 as a crew chief servicing A-10s before becoming a first sergeant, then an officer for the maintenance group. She oversees maintenance operations.

"We are so proud of what we do that that we've actually incorporated our new tagline and our new mission statement, which is called 'Data Done Right,'" said Artiaco. "Because we take so much pride in ensuring that our data is complete and that's really what we are: the data center of the maintenance group."

More than 600 people attended the event to inspire a new generation of young women in STEM and aviation.

"Ask questions, get the information, and don't think that there's anything that you can't do," said Mead. "If you have a love for something, whether it be in the military, whether it be aviation, whether it be anything."