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927th MXG Superintendent shares insight with females in aircraft maintenance

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell
  • Altus Air Force Base Public Affairs

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.-- Female maintainers of the 97th Maintenance Group gathered together for a mentorship luncheon with U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Erin Willis, 927th MXG superintendent, May 6, 2021.

This luncheon was an opportunity for members to gain insight and perspective from someone who has climbed the ranks of aviation maintenance, both in the civilian and military sectors.

“It is important to give back career experience down to the lowest level,” said Willis. “It helps to grow the diversity and the number of women that are currently employed and in aviation maintenance. Whether that's military aviation maintenance or just generally enterprise maintenance.”

Erin joined the AFR as a KC-135 Crew Chief in 2000 while a student at Purdue University. She has been assigned to KC-135 units at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, and MacDill AFB, Florida --  all while serving  as a traditional reservist and air reserve technician. 

“We can bring more women and more diversity to the maintenance workforce and bring different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds,” said Willis. “This is all for a better-rounded environment that's more accepting and more approachable. Let's knock down some of those barriers and those stigmas that ‘women don't belong in maintenance, that women don't want to get their hands dirty, or that women aren't strong enough,’ because those are all untrue statements. Women can do all that and more.”

During her career, Wills has held numerous maintenance and leadership positions including dedicated crew chief, quality assurance inspector, maintenance operations center controller, maintenance operations superintendent, and maintenance group superintendent. She has deployed six times in support of Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Inherent Resolve. While here she also shared her experiences while touring the different facilities of the 97th MXG.

“I spent a lot of time visiting the maintenance squadrons and their back shops this afternoon. ” said Willis. “The operation here, it's phenomenal, the people are incredible. They're passionate, they're motivated and they're proud of what they do.”

Topics covered during the mentorship lunch included talking about her career, women employment statistics, establishing a mentor, diversity in the workforce, and the rewards of being a mentor. These topics were selected by Willis to help advance the force of the base’s maintainers.

“I think having someone come here to Altus and give us mentorship was extremely awesome," said Victoria Cerda, 97th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft attendant. "I got a lot of good information from her. I think it's very important to reach out to our younger women about being out here and how far they can go and move up in this career. Willis gave us good information on how to be a better mentor, how to reach out to the younger women (recruiting), and just to continue to be here to support the mission because I love doing just that.”

Having Willis speak with the members of the wing, allows the experience to continue to the current generation of female maintainers. She wrapped up the mentorship luncheon with a task for the attendees and maintenance group.

“I would just like to ask that the ladies of the 97th Maintenance Group continue to come together and learn from each other,” said Willis. “Especially those seasoned, experienced women, and to help bring up the next generation of supervisors and leaders, they have a lot of value, a lot of experience to pass on. Above all, I hope they're able to continue meeting and continuing the conversation.”

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