Wing's modern-day Rosie Riveters

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shelton Sherrill
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

“Keep a sharp lookout for sabotage
Sitting up there on the fuselage
That little frail can do more than a male can do”

-The Rosie Riveter Song

These words were sang proudly by thousands of women entering the workforce to support the American economy and war effort during World War I and II. Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of a new era in American Society. Women were no longer viewed as housewives, but workers serving their country while the world attempted to restore order and peace. From then to now, women continue to serve their country in the workplace.

At the 403rd Wing women continue to overcome challenges and impact the world through their duty.

These Reserve Citizen Airmen include women such as Tech. Sgt. Lacey Matthews, who serves as a dedicated crew chief with the 403rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. As a proud mother of three children, Matthews said she performs aircraft maintenance, inspections, refueling and prepares WC-130J Super Hercules for missions. A job stereotypical for a male, Matthews is proud to be a female maintainer while disproving misconceptions that come with it.

“Stereotypes of being a female maintainer is that I may be a tomboy or that I’m not strong enough to do the job … none of those are true actually,” said Matthews.

Tomboyish looks may cloud an outsider's vision, but it’s only because she gets the job done. Outside the workplace, Matthews said she is no stranger to dresses and letting her hair down. She welcomes the long days full of dirt and grime that come with the job. Proof of her work ethic shows through in the blanket of sweat that covers her uniform at the end of the day.

Initially, Matthews said she wasn’t comfortable with her job. However, overtime she said she got acclimated and proved that she could do the job just as well as any other “male can do” through hard work and dedication. Matthews carries her weight but also knows when to exercise safety.

“If I need help I will ask for help, I won’t say that I can do something that I can’t do, such as lifting something extremely heavy,” said Matthews. “But, I feel like as far as performing every day tasks, my job requires, yes, I can do it all.”

Life as a maintainer is different than other career fields in the Air Force. Matthews said it’s very strenuous sometimes but very rewarding in itself.

Another Airman who can relate to Matthews is Senior Airman Callie Byrd who is also is a 803rd AMXS crew chief.

“We’re kind of a special breed, just different,” said Byrd. “You have to have thick skin. Because you’re going to get made fun of, but you get to make fun of each other like family.”

Some maintainers can appear to be direct which can be challenging, said Byrd. It can be challenging at times to deal with, but she says it’s a part of the family dynamics.

“I don’t feel like anybody’s treated me any differently just because I’m a woman,” said Byrd.

With a family legacy of maintainers including her father and sister along with previous work experience in the aviation industry, enlisting as a maintainer was a lifestyle she knew she could overcome.

When asked what the best aspect of her job is, Byrd smiled ear to ear and proudly responded, “It’s hard work and you will get dirty, hot and sweaty but it’s also very rewarding when you watch the plane take off, and I can say I helped make that happen.”

While some women enjoy the grittiness and wrestle with the culture as a maintainer, others face a different set of challenges that only come with being a mother. 

In addition to being a 403rd Maintenance Squadron meteorological equipment technician, Tech. Sgt. Crystal Register is a dedicated mother. Everyday Register maintains equipment and systems utilized to collect and transmit data for Hurricane Hunter missions and research.

Wanting to be part of something much bigger than herself, Register said she enlisted into the Air Force for opportunity and advancement. While reflecting back on life she calculates the cost of her dreams.

“My biggest challenge is trying to balance work and home life,” said Register. “Being away from family for weeks at a time can be an emotional strain for myself and family members.”

Register said she has missed many important dates and events to achieve the mission.

It be can be a burden on home life when she is not around. Simple daily household tasks that are conquerable by a duo become colossal when a parent is called away for weeks at a time.

“I was blessed with a supportive husband and family close by that understands the separation portion of military life,” said Register.

Even though serving comes at a cost to both male and female Airmen. Register said she knows that she is doing something that is bigger than her. She said her motivation lies in knowing she has a strong support system and that what she does effects the lives of people facing life-changing storms.

No matter what challenges the day may bring, women like Matthews, Byrd, and Register face them head on. From the call to duty to coming home and being a mother, these women proudly wear multiple hats while completing the mission.