Celebrating Women Serving in the Nebraska National Guard

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. R Denise Mommens
  • 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard

LINCOLN, Neb. — From 1942-1946, U.S. lawmakers allowed women opportunities to serve in the military but intended for them to serve only during World War II and set a limit of 2 percent of total personnel within each service,  Army, Army Air Corps, Marine Corps and Navy, as well as excluding combat positions. 

The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act became law in 1948, granting women the right to permanently serve in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the newly formed Air Force. 

The many limitations once placed on women in U.S. military service no longer exist as policy and might seem like ancient history to women now serving in the Nebraska Air National Guard. The job opportunities now available to Airmen — a term that refers to both men and women in our ranks — are determined by standardized qualifications and aptitude as measured by the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a test given to potential recruits before they enlist.

“My dad was an Air Force pilot,” said Col. Katy Millwood, 155th Operations Group Commander. “In my head, I just always thought about the military being an option. I could see myself doing that, I didn’t know how I was going to get there.”

Millwood had no idea about the Guard, but heard about it from a friend and decided to check it out.

After talking to a Nebraska Air National Guard recruiter, Millwood took the ASVAB and scored well enough, her recruiter said she could do whatever she wanted.

The ASVAB is a multiple-question test which measures general knowledge in general science, mathematics and arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge and comprehension, mechanical comprehension, Auto and Shop Information, and assembling objects.

When asked about her interests, Millwood replied someday she wanted to fly. She enlisted as an Instrument Control Specialist. Less than two years later, after graduating from college, she submitted her package and was chosen to attend Undergraduate Pilot Training.

Now, after 31 years, as a KC-135R Stratotanker pilot in the Nebraska Air National Guard, Millwood said she still has something to give, enjoys serving, and tries to bring her perspective to any task before her.

Millwood said she is honored to serve along many talented women in the organization because of the shared perspective and encouragement they offer one another.

Chief Master Sgt. Jody Kouma, 155th Force Support Squadron superintendent, recalls that her ASVAB scores were a significant factor in determining opportunities available to her, when she first joined but also other milestones in her 27 years in the Nebraska Air National Guard.

“I don’t ever recall someone saying that because I was a female I couldn’t pursue something, it was more my scores,” Kouma said.

Kouma said she has heard some female Airmen tell her about challenges they experienced in some of the more male-dominated jobs. 

However, Kouma said the number of strong and confident women she worked with over the years was a powerful influence on her career. “They were good examples,” Kouma added.

Several people, both male and female, throughout her career Kouma said she was thankful for, as they planted seeds of encouragement in her and helped her see more of what she was capable of accomplishing.

“That was when the most growth happened,” Kouma said, “When a person comes in to take you outside your comfort zone.”

Kouma said she remembers her dad and her grandfather being her biggest encouragers in her military career, as they had both served in the Nebraska Army Guard and Air Guard respectively.

“I think everybody should know what it's like to serve their country,” Millwood said.  “It is one of those places where we can be treated equally.” 

Millwood stopped mid-sentence, listened to the oncoming roar and watched a plane take off out her window facing the flight line.  “I love this office,” Millwood said, “and I love what I do.”