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ANG Woman Wing Commander Doesn't See Herself as Pioneer, By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
ANG Woman Wing Commander Doesn't See Herself as Pioneer, By Master
Sgt. Bob Haskell
(EXCERPT) Special to American Forces Press Service
ANDREWS AFB, Md., March 18, 2004 * Air National Guard Col. Linda
McTague has gotten pretty good at regarding herself through the eyes
of others. She does not see a pioneer for women's achievements when
she looks in a mirror. But she realizes that other people consider her
to be a role model * a pioneer * for what women can accomplish in this
country's military service. And she strives very hard to live up to
those expectations, as well as to her own.
McTague is in a good position to take that kind of stock in herself,
because she is the first woman to command an Air National Guard wing,
and because she is believed to be the first of her gender to have an
Air Force fighter squadron under her command, according to records at
the Air Force history office.
Specifically, the woman from Battle Creek, Mich., assumed command of
the District of Columbia Air National Guard's highly-decorated 113th
Wing on Dec. 1. She therefore is eligible to become a brigadier
That diverse wing of some 1,050 men and women includes the 121st
Fighter Squadron of F-16s that is on alert during the war against
terrorism and the 201st Airlift Squadron that flies members of
Congress and other dignitaries around the world in a fleet of C-38 and
C-40 operational support airplanes.
Here's the catch. McTague is not a fighter pilot. She cut her Air
Guard aviation teeth as an operational support airlift pilot beginning
in 1988 before climbing the ladder to serve as the 201st's commander
for nearly four years beginning in November 1997. She was the first
woman to command an Air Guard flying squadron, said Charles Gross, the
Air Guard's chief historian.
That, she claimed during a recent interview, is an indication of how
much the military culture has changed during the past decade to make
it possible for women and members of minorities to reach the level she
But a pioneer? "I don't personally see myself that way, because I've
never felt the pressure to be a pioneer. But if I'm realistic about
the comments that I hear from other people, I'd have to say that they
do see me that way." McTague said.
"I know this is something unique and something that, perhaps, a lot of
people are excited about and interested in, because it may open paths
and opportunities for them that they hadn't thought about before, or
that they can now do realistically," she added. "It's not just a dream
for them now."
McTague said many other women did plenty of pioneering before her,
including the civilian Women Air Force Service Pilots, who ferried
military airplanes overseas and towed targets and served as instructor
pilots during World War II.
She does, however, realize she's in the right place at the right time
to benefit from a change in attitudes toward women and toward people
who are not fighter pilots that was helped, she said, by the change in
the law in 1992 that made it possible for women to fly combat
"Ten years ago, the culture was such that if you weren't a fighter
pilot, you were not going to be the wing commander," McTague said.
"Now, we've had women in traditional male fields for awhile, and our
senior leadership has pushed the idea that we need to be a diverse
organization, to tap the resources that we have available to us, and
to not exclude anybody because of race or gender."
And she does not feel out of place in the commander's office because
she is not one of the fighter pilots, even though "we exist as a wing
to support the fighter mission," she acknowledged. "I've been given
the opportunity to do a lot of jobs in this wing over the years, so I
think I was pretty well prepared when I was asked to be the commander.
"I don't think I have to fly the airplane to understand the F-16
mission," said McTague, who has earned her wings as a command pilot
while logging more than 5,250 hours in eight kinds of aircraft during
her 23 years in uniform. That includes four years as an instructor
pilot and Wings of Blue pilot for the Air Force Academy in Colorado.
"I've always relied on the experts, and we have a strong vice
commander in Col. Jeff Johnson who does fly the F-16 and knows the
missions," McTague added.
Chief Master Sgt. George McCarley predicted that McTague would make an
excellent wing commander "because she's level-headed and she listens
to her people." McCarley is the 201st squadron's superintendent for
aircraft generation, and he worked for McTague from March 1991 until
October 1994, when she was the squadron's assistant chief and then
chief of maintenance.
"She was an excellent pilot, and she didn't know anything about
aircraft maintenance when she came to us," McCarley recalled. "But she
listened to us, and she always referred to the book to help her make
She also learned to respect and to rely on the enlisted force during
her tenure in maintenance, said McTague, who has since served as
commander of the 113th Logistics Squadron and Logistics Group. The
D.C. Air Guard's enlisted men and women gave her their highest tribute
in 2001 by inducting her as an honorary chief master sergeant.
She spent the past two years as the Air Guard advisor to the director
of operations at Headquarters Air Education and Training Command at
Randolph, Air Force Base, Texas, before returning to the 113th Wing as
McTague holds a liberal arts degree and a master's degree in adult
education from Florida International University, where she received a
scholarship to play softball and volleyball. She played volleyball on
the Air Force team and at the international level when she was a young
Now she considers herself the Air Guard wing's advocate as well as its
coach, whose most important job is preparedness and "to maximize
everybody's potential out here" while maintaining its reputation as a
team "that will not settle for being less than the best."
Her plan is simple. "I want to be a good listener. I have to be a good
student of dealing with people," said McTague. "I want to be polite
and respectful. I want to try to find the niche where everybody will
fit and contribute."
"I want to give people the opportunity to fulfill their personal
goals," said the new wing commander, who has taken advantage of every
chance she has been given to fulfill her own.
The American War Library
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