Women's History Month: A cadet's perspective

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephanie Brushwood
  • 10th Medical Operations Squadron
Editor's note: March is Women's History Month, an annual event celebrated at the Academy and across the nation to highlight the achievements and success of women. This is the second story in a two-part series showcasing women at Academy. This week's report features Cadet 1st Class Lindsay Johnson who will graduate in May. Johnson, 22, hails from Fairfax Station, Va.

Whether jumping out of a perfectly good plane nearly 500 times, leading a squadron of cadets or preparing to graduate, one cadet says prospects are very high for women at the Academy.

Cadet 1st Class Lindsay Johnson, Cadet Squadron 40, said attending the Academy has allowed her to follow her dreams and make lifelong friends.

"It's a camaraderie you can't get anywhere else" she said. "I'm very excited to graduate and attend pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, but graduation will be bittersweet. I have had so many opportunities here at the Academy, and there are many more that I haven't taken advantage of yet."

Johnson's dream of attending the Academy is directly linked to one of her favorite activities: skydiving.

"From the first time I saw a demonstration jump team perform at an air show at Langley Air Force base, I told my father, 'that's what I want to do."'

Since then, Johnson, the Wings of Blue cadet squadron commander, has willingly thrown herself out of a plane 474 times.

"I've had 474 free skydives, which is something not many people can say," she said.

Johnson, a behavioral sciences major, helps command more than 75 cadets who also make it a habit to willingly jump from a plane.

"Being a squadron commander has had a great impact on the way I look at leadership," she said. "I've learned a lot about accountability and selflessness. I'm lucky to be in command. I'm 100 percent committed to commanding and producing the best squadron I can, even if it means a lot more responsibility."

On Mentoring
Johnson has two Academy mentors she said she "can go to for help or just talk to about anything": Capt. Sarah Towler, 306 Flying Training Group executive officer, and Master Sgt. Juston Demke, a jumpmaster instructor here.

"Captain Towler strongly encouraged me to go up for squadron commander," Johnson said. "Without her encouragement and inspiration I would have never had the boost to go for it. She's been my reassurance and supporter since day one. It's very important have someone to guide you and teach you the path to success."

Johnson described Demke as her "Litmus test" and "wingman."

"He's the person you never want to disappoint -- you always want him to be impressed with you," she said. "He holds cadets to such a high standard but he's the kind of senior NCO who walks-the-walk and talks-the-talk. He is the motivator and gives cadets the structure they need."

Johnson is aware that it's Women's History Month, but thanks to the Academy environment, gender is not a topic she routinely finds herself thinking about.

"We're all cadets, we're all equal and we're all here to accomplish the same mission," she said. "Being a female squadron commander has had the same trials and tribulations that would be expected of a male commander."

There is never a question whether or not she can accomplish something in the Air Force based on her gender, Johnson said.

"I have seen many females here work above and beyond that which is expected of any cadet regardless of gender," she said. "I feel that women nowadays do not face as many struggles as women have in the past, which I feel is an incredible improvement for women in the military. (Academy superintendent) Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson is an incredible example of a woman warrior who has achieved so much in her career. As a woman here at the Academy, I have been extremely blessed with so many amazing opportunities, all of which have been offered to both men and women. My family and friends and even spectators during demonstration jumps think it's mind-blowing that I could achieve such miraculous dreams."

(Academy Public Affairs contributed to this report)