Women of the 41st EECS pave the way for the next generation of electronic warfare

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Daira Jackson
  • 386 AEW Public Affairs

The women of the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron assembled an air crew on base and flew together in support of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2022.

The 7-member air crew flew an electronic warfare mission supporting the CENTCOM area of responsibility and Operation Inherent Resolve to set an example for the future of women in the Air Force and for those who desire a career in aviation.

“When you see someone who looks like you doing something you want to do, it helps you envision that,” said Capt. Michelle Massie, electronic warfare officer, 41st EECS. “But if you don't have that, you may never consider a career for yourself. The more females we have in jobs that are traditionally male dominated, I think the more likely younger girls are going to consider those careers as options for themselves.”

Massie grew up in a military family. Her father was in the military, and she had friends who were pilots and in aviation, but she never knew any female pilots growing up. Massie did not consider an aviation career in the military until after she joined and discovered female pilots existed. She cross-trained from medical to become an electronic warfare officer.

Electronic warfare officers go through extensive training in the observing and countering the electromagnetic spectrum of radar, weapons, communications and other flight operations to ensure the safety of the aircraft, crew and the successful completion of our missions.

“For me, when I was going through college, my initial plan was to be an engineer for the Air Force,” said 1st Lt. Amelia Zwiener-Bray, electronic warfare officer, 41st EECS. “I graduated with mechanical engineering and physics degrees, but I just took that leap of faith and tried to go [into] aviation.”

Zwiener-Bray got a combat systems officer slot and went to Pensacola, Florida for training. That’s where she learned more about electronic warfare officers and chose to pursue this career field because she felt it was a profession that she would be very interested and passionate about.

“I joined the Air Force a little later in life,” said Tech. Sgt. Jaime Sloan, airborne cryptologic linguist, 41st EECS. “I used to work for a tea company. I did customer service and marketing. I was almost 26 years old and just constantly working—living in California. I was barely making ends meet. I felt very dissatisfied and [that] there was something more for me.”

As language translators in the sky, airborne cryptologic linguist personnel constantly monitor the radio frequency spectrum and translate, evaluate and report on messages and other in-flight intelligence received in foreign languages.

Sloan was already fluent in Spanish, loved traveling and culture. At the recommendation of her Air Force recruiter, Sloan applied for a linguist position. She then passed the Defense Language Aptitude Battery, a standardized government test approximately two hours in length, used to determine the natural ability of armed services members to learn a foreign language. Afterward, at the Defense Language Institute, Sloan learned about aircrew jobs and became an airborne cryptologic linguist.

Being a woman in the military has had its challenges, but times are changing.

“There was a point in time where women weren't even allowed to be in the military,” said Sloan. “Then when they were in the military, there were only certain goals they could [achieve]. But women have constantly paved the way. Year after year, they've made it better for the future generations. And they're still continuing to do that.”

“It's something to embrace because we don't have as many of those obstacles as women did back then,” said Zwiener-Bray. “Just the fact that those women broke that ceiling, allows us to be on [this] path. It’s amazing. I'd say, whoever's in this career field or whatever career field that you're in, embrace it.”

These women aircrew members fulfill their duties and responsibilities with pride and encourage other women to do the same.

“We're the only Air Force AFSC that does what we do,” said Massie. “You feel needed and you feel like you're a valued part of the fight. I'm doing something that very few people have the opportunity to do and it makes some of the other sacrifices worth it.”

The women of the 41st EECS hope to inspire others by sharing their military career stories.

“Through all of this, I just hope that my kids can one day feel empowered themselves, especially my daughter,” said Sloan. “I want her to see what I go through for her and to see the challenges that I face. I want her to know that she can do anything she wants to and even if it's hard, that there are other women out there who will support her forever.”