By Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — In 1952, Neva Cole had just graduated college. Her family had a long history of military service; so she set off to join the Navy as part of the family tradition. The role of women in her family at the time was much different than it is today. Her father and her husband told her she would absolutely not be joining the Navy; so with much regret, she didn’t join.
Fast forward nearly 60 years and times have changed, allowing her granddaughter different opportunities. Staff Sgt. Madeline Whiton, who was looking for a new career in 2008, went to her grandma for advice. The young woman was encouraged to join the military along with her 16 other male family members in service.
“When I went to my grandma, the answer was to try something new, go see the world and not have any regrets,” said Whiton.
When Whiton enlisted she found her future as a material management technician. Currently with the 21st Space Wing, she helps manage the flight service center and warehouse, which encompasses at least $1 million of replacement equipment per quarter and stores more than 3,000 items.
“Sixty years ago, things were different for women who wanted to serve,” said Whiton. “Joining the Air Force was something I always wanted to do, and now I provide support for some very important missions around the world.”
In the meticulous profession of supply, Whiton believes she brings the same detail-oriented approach she has with her children to the workplace.
In 2013, the 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron was tasked with inventorying roughly 20,000 new items and either finding a new home for them or retiring them from service. Whiton said she wanted to take a calculated approach to the project in order to find the best homes for each item if one was available.
“I believe that women bring something different to the table,” said Whiton. “We view situations in different ways and we can bring a diverse approach to leadership. In no way are we better, but diversity can be an extremely positive influence in any work environment.”
Whiton has brought a different approach to her working environment, winning her multiple awards including the 2012 Material Management Airman of the Year for Air Force Space Command, the AFSPC Logistics Readiness Airman of the Year 2012 and the Air Force Association Lt. Gen. DeKok Outstanding Airman of the Year 2012.
“When I come to work, I treat situations like I would with my family,” said Whiton. “Every decision I make will affect someone’s life in a way; I want to make sure I make the right decision.”
Whiton said she has found her place in the Air Force and thinks of her colleagues as family. She intends to continue her career in the Air Force and work hard to support her family at home and at work.
“Women shouldn’t be discouraged from service,” said Whiton. “Women can be just as mentally, physically and spiritually capable as men and they are truly recognized for it (in the Air Force); it doesn’t matter who you are or your gender.”
Whiton’s family now has a total of 17 veterans who have served the country in the armed forces. While only one of them is a woman, the next 17 will undoubtedly have more than one.
(This is part one of a series spotlighting women in the military. March is Women’s History Month.)