She lets out an exuberant laugh as she describes the box shape of
her first uniform. She recalls thinking she looked like the cartoon
character Gumby. There is a light in her eyes as she reminisces
about the past. Col. Barbara Chine, U.S. Air Force retired, joined
the Air Force September 24, 1979, a time when women were beginning
to serve in traditionally male career fields and had to endure many
challenges female Airmen of today don't face.
“Men had not
supervised women,” said Chine. “I had some burly ol' master
sergeants who really kind of scuffed me around.”
see the determination and spirit in her face as she described how
she would be told to go shine boots and sometimes even be called
ugly when her uniform wasn't perfect.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Barbara Chine commissioned as an
aircrew training officer. She experienced many challenges as a woman
in a traditionally male career field. (U.S. Air Force photo
illustration by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks - March 11, 2016)
Chine had a degree in teaching and was commissioned as an aircrew
training officer. She said that most aircrew Airmen had never worked
Chine said she understood that the men had never
worked with women and needed to learn how to supervise women. She
also felt women needed to learn how to work with the men in these
new career fields and it sometimes seemed like the blind leading the
“They were very hard on me because they wanted me to
do well,” said Chine.
She said one of the biggest hurdles the
Air Force faced when integrating women into more career fields was
having the proper infrastructure for female hygiene. She recalled a
time when there were only male restrooms and some of them only had
“Those are the kinds of things a lot of you might
take for granted that other women have gone before you so you don't
have to put up with it,” said Chine. “We had to look at a man and
say, ‘those need to go, sir!'”
Chine said she rarely felt
treated differently because she was a woman.
“It evolved slowly but surely as women began doing more and more
and teaching our men what we needed,” said Chine.
noticed a great change later in her career during one of her two
stints at Grand Forks AFB. She was one of three female commanders in
the 319th Air Refueling Wing and felt that for the first time she
could really be heard. She said it speaks volumes about the base
commander who hired them.
“What a strong man it takes to hire
three women,” said Chine.
Over her entire career she said the
biggest change she noticed was the Air Force “opening the door and
letting women have a chance to succeed and stand next to her fellow
man and just do the job.”
Chine learned a lot in her Air
Force career and wants female Airmen to be successful.
March 9, 2016 - Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Barbara Chine stands
with her shadow box in Grand Forks, N.D. Chine spent 25 years in the
Air Force and experienced many challenges when the Air Force
integrated women into new career fields traditionally reserved for
men. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks)
“I recommend to any woman to be competent. Go and find
the best in your unit and take good counsel and good
mentorship,” said Chine. “The Air Force can't afford to have
anyone that's not great at their job. The job is too
Chine said she has worked with many
extraordinary women and they have all made it to their
position the same way.
“The most successful women in
our military today have gotten there because they have
worked hard,” said Chine.
Chine and many other women
experienced challenges and pushed through them so that the
Air Force would be better for the next generation. She wants
today's Air Force women to work hard and not take their
situation for granted.
“Figure it out, be competent,
be skilled and don't expect any favors because you are a
woman and by all means don't use your femininity to get you
anything because it will get you a dime and a cup of coffee
in the end,” said Chine.
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks
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