By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — When Dottie Holmes retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant in 1979, she was the first woman to retire with 30 years totally in the Air Force, setting her apart from contemporaries who served as members of the Women’s Army Corps.
Many things happened during Holmes’ three decades of service, but instead of focusing on the big events, she chose to take it one day, all 10,950 of them, at a time.
“I just served it as it came, one day at a time” Holmes said.
She didn’t intend to make a career for herself in the Air Force, it just unfolded that way.
“I took it one enlistment at a time,” said Holmes. “I used to tease everyone that I would (reenlist) until something better came along. Nothing did, so here I sit.”
She said she enjoyed the “whole nine yards” of her AF career. She worked for people who respected her and she wanted to prove she was worthy of the job at hand.
“I made no excuses, I just did it,” Holmes said of her various assignments. “I knew my boss’s name was attached to whatever I did so I better straighten up and fly right.”
One of the biggest changes during her time in the service was women being accepted into more career fields and not limited to what she called “soft service” jobs.
“Women are generally accepted (now),” said Holmes. “To me you should not be restricted on a job based on sex. If you are qualified to do the job, you should be able to do it.”
She said giving women the chance to perform different types of jobs presented an opportunity to prove they could do them.
“Women have proven themselves worthy of their jobs,” she explained. “To me, the worst thing is to assume someone cannot do a job. You should be given the opportunity to fail on your own. Do not assume I am going to fail. (Women) don’t want anything handed to them.”
She spent most of her time in personnel positions, but Holmes began as a flight chief.
“That was including drills, because I had a big mouth,” she said.
Holmes served in postings around the world, including a 1976 assignment to instruct the first women’s cadet flight at the U.S. Air Force Academy. From that group 97 women would graduate in 1980. She was able to pass on to them her practical experiences gained over the years.
“I told them as the first class they were role models,” said Holmes. “They would be watched like hawks and not always accepted. They would have to excel in their fields and basically, be the sharpest they could be.”
Holmes placed a high value on being a team player. She said that is how she hoped to be remembered in her career.
“A team doesn’t believe in WAC jobs,” Holmes said. “I felt a job is a job.”
Her advice to young women today is simple: Be willing to serve wherever and whenever needed.
“You received training, now you have a job to do,” she said.
Holmes gained insight into leadership over the decades. She said leaders should know their troops and be willing to listen to them. She had advice for those who aspire to leadership as well.
“You have to be willing to take orders before you give orders,” said Holmes. “You have to follow through and support your boss to succeed. Respect them, but be willing to talk to them, too. And meet the mission requirements, they are higher than you.”
Along the way Holmes faced many tough challenges. Did she ever consider giving up? The answer was an emphatic no!
“If you think something is worth fighting for then stick with it,” she said.
Holmes is presently a volunteer in the Peterson AFB Retiree Activity Office.