I was assigned to the flight-line, which meant I would be working on the aircraft at the hangars/runways rather than working on parts off of the aircraft in the back shop. While I wasn’t the only female on the flight-line, I was the only one in my AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code [job])
I came into the Air Force with my chosen career field: Aerospace Propulsion, which is just a fancy schmancy term for aircraft engine mechanic. I was eager to get started and jump in, as some people aren’t so lucky in being assigned a job they want/like, PLUS I had gotten an initial overseas assignment, which many would LOVE to have.
As soon as I arrived there was of course a lot of in-processing to take care of and most people were nice about my arrival, I was the new “meat’ after all – it didn’t take long for that to become clear.
I still say this to this day when being asked how I liked it; “I loved my job, I loved being in Japan, but the people I worked with made work miserable.”
I was flat old told by my first supervisor/trainer that girls didn’t belong on the flight-line. Well that was a direct blow shortly after arriving. I was half ass trained because I was a female in a mostly male dominated career field, which wasn’t fair whatsoever. Further into my time at my duty station, I was assigned a new supervisor/trainer as mine had gone on a long TDY (temporary duty.) This new supervisor was a bit better and would at least train me a bit more, but it still wasn’t allowing me to be where I needed to with my testing & training.
Eventually most of my fellow co-workers would have gone on short TDYs here and there, not allowing me to come because “I was new and still training and doing my CDCs (Career Development Courses.) This was complete bullshit because they would take other Airmen along with them that had arrived after me and were behind even where I was with my training. Not attending these TDYs wasn’t a complete loss, however, because I would take advantage of not having most of the aircraft around to work on and take myself to the back shop to work on parts and get my training signed off there.
I had gotten caught up after my first year and the time to test to advance to my -5 level where I could work alone would be coming up. During all this time I was also going through a divorce where my ex wouldn’t have contact with me, so I was already stressed out to begin with trying to take care of personal matters.
I was filling out paperwork into the computer system one night in our office along with one of my engine co-workers and a handful of others, when I asked a question about entering some of the information. He ended up making some rude comment about being a stupid girl and slapped me in the face. Now I’m not sure how anyone would have not seen it, but later, when a witness was asked, he did confirm of the verbal bashing.
On a second occasion, this same co-worker and I were working inside a aircraft hanger and finished working on the engine. I had packed up the toolbox and we had started on our way in when he had slapped me across the face again, for no reason at all. I still didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to cause tension at work since things were already quite terrible for me.
The time to take my test came. I’m already not a great test taker – I get anxiety, plus I was stressed out from trying to get divorced AND everything going on at work. I ended up not passing, which meant I would need to retest, but speak with my supervisor, flight chief and commander and explain myself.
During my meeting with my flight chief, I don’t know what came over me – I assume it was just a boil over off all the stress from what was happening in and out of work. I explained a bit about my personal situation outside of work, and ended up blurting out that I had been physically assaulted by that co-worker. I wish that had never happened, because things only became worse after that. The commander was informed, my supervisor was told and felt stupid because he had no idea what was going on. What was I supposed to do? All of them were buddies and hung out outside of work. I was afraid they would all hold grudges and treat me worse than they already were. My fears were most definitely valid because that was exactly what happened.
An OSI (Office of Special Investigations) was started and I would have to tell my story on the record and face the stares and criticism of the squadron because they would think I tattled or made some assault story up like so many females have been known to do. I was now even further stressed and had no support system, so I forced myself to see a councilor. It didn’t end up helping much emotionally about the divorce and assault, but helped a bit with my text anxiety. I was still looking behind my back all the time worried I was going to be attacked and beat up by that co-worker. He was a big guy and was a tad on the crazy side (he would often talk about bizarre and inappropriate things such as raping children and alien sex.) I didn’t go out on base anymore unless I had an appointment or really needed food.
Work didn’t seem too concerned about what had happened, which was expected, but they had to do something. They put us on opposite shifts, although they overlapped often and we still shared the same office for paperwork. A month or so later this guy ended up getting his promotion and next duty assignment and that was the end of that.
There isn’t much more to say about this after that, you can probably guess how things were the rest of my tour in Japan. I’m sad that my time in such a great placed was ruined by close minded and rude people.
On a happy note, I did visit Tokyo once and had a good time away there 😛
So, how does that compare to now? Well I’m living in Washington/British Columbia while working in WA building aircraft interiors. I love that I’m still working with aircraft but I sure as hell don’t get paid for my skills. I can’t complain – it’s a job that gives me a sense of accomplishment. Plus, I’m not being ostracized by co-workers and I can always go to my lead/supervisor or anyone else for that matter if I have a question or need help. In that aspect, its definitely the opposite of where I was 5 years ago.
Last note: I <3 mah fluffy!