By Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Recent history has shown itself to be filled with remarkable people, like Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teen who was shot and left for dead by the Taliban simply for wanting an education; Angela Zhang, who, as a 17-year-old high-school student, discovered a possible cure for cancer; or Eesha Khare, who at 18, developed a supercapacitor that may one day lead to the ability to charge a smart phone in less than 30 seconds.
What do these remarkable people have in common? They’re all women.
The Air Force also has its fair share of brilliant women, two of which are stationed here at Team Pete.
Meet Col. Susan Moran, 21st Medical Group commander, and Lt. Col. Tamra Johnson, 21st Medical Operations Squadron commander.
Like many, who join the military, these two ladies began their careers innocuously enough — serve four years and then get out. Yet, more than 40 combined years later, these women find themselves commanding the Airmen who will one day lead our Air Force.
Moran, who grew up in Merritt Island, Fla., knew she wanted to be a pediatrician since the seventh grade.
She joined the Air Force in 1995 after earning her medical degree from Wake Forest and completed her residency at the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium, Lackland AFB, Texas.
After her residency, Moran continued to excel in her training and career, ultimately earning the 2013 “Building Stronger Female Physicians Leaders in the (Military Health System)” for her work with Girl Scouts USA as well as humanitarian efforts in Sri Lanka teaching pediatric life-saving techniques to local physicians.
However, it was during her residency she met a friend for life — her roommate Tamra Johnson.
Johnson, raised in Detroit and a die-hard hockey fan, also knew early on she wanted a career in the medical field.
She’d grown up figure skating, and when Johnson was referred to a sports therapist for a fractured leg, she was so intrigued she decided that would be her life’s work.
Johnson’s plan was simple. Earn her medical degree, complete training as a sports therapist, and then land a job with the Detroit Red Wings.
Yet, those plans changed after she discovered her path to college was through an ROTC program and then on to active duty.
After four years in the Air Force, Johnson decided it would be best for her family to continue a life with the Air Force.
Her skills took her to Iraq in 2005 to the aero-medical staging facility where Johnson prepped patients for evacuation to Kuwait or Ramstein AB for further medical treatment. Later that same year she was traveling to New Orleans to assist the victims left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Today, both women are serving as commanders for the 21st Space Wing, taking special care of the one mission asset that makes them most proud — their Airmen.
“I get to work with awesome people,” said Moran.
She added that watching her Airmen shine and making a positive impact on those around them are what make her job so rewarding.
Sharing this same sentiment, Johnson said she takes care of Airmen so they, in turn, can take care of the mission. It’s through these actions she hopes to leave a lasting impression on others.
“You don’t know what kind of impact you have on others,” Johnson said.
When it comes to being women in the military, a historically male-dominated world, both Moran and Johnson said they have careers they are proud of and had never experienced any maltreatment due to their gender.
Moran said that when sitting in a meeting with fellow commanders, she’s often the only female in the room.
“I don’t feel looked down upon,” said Moran. “I’ve never felt like a minority who was treated differently.”
Johnson also offered words of encouragement and advice for any young women who might have big dreams, but are unsure how to bring those dreams to life.
“Take chances, no matter where or what,” said Johnson. “Sing in public, try out for a sports team, debate, play an instrument, dance, apply for a job, ask a difficult question. The more that girl tries, the better the chances are that she will be heard.”
Johnson added that it’s these trials, the successful and unsuccessful, which build strength and character in young women and help them to surmount any obstacles in their way.
(March is Women’s History Month.)