MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
It’s been more than a decade since a woman joined the Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 Demonstration Team, and in late January, Senior Airman Emily Wall, a 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, broke social norms introducing something new to the aerial demo team.
Growing up the youngest of seven siblings, she wanted a life of her own, different than that of her brothers and sister. She knew she wanted to stand out and ultimately enlisted with the U.S. Air Force.
“I like pushing myself to experience more because I love dabbling into different things,” Wall explained. “None of my siblings enlisted in the military and I never really had a chance to have a voice of my own. That drove something inside me to give the military a chance and see where it would take me.”
Wall said her family was a little shocked at first, but after seeing how positively her military life impacted her and all she accomplished, they supported her.
“She’s never been one to think of herself before others and I think that characteristic fits perfectly with her military career,” said John Wall, one of her brothers. “I've always felt that no matter what path she’s chosen in life, she finds success. It was evident while growing up that she not only outworked anyone around her, but she never backed down from a challenge or let a hardship defeat her. The military has given her the opportunity to prove that.”
Wall described some challenging situations on the flightline which took up much of her spare time. She found herself constantly fighting the negative stigma associated with being a woman in her career field.
“When I make a mistake, most times, people associate my mistakes with me being a female,” Wall explained. “People will say a lot of bad things about me and I just let it roll off.”
Because her identity on the flightline is associated with being female, there’s a tendency for her coworkers to view her as an underdog.
“As a female maintainer, you stick out like a sore thumb on the flightline and you have to work twice as hard sometimes because, naturally, if you need a guy or a girl to pick up a heavy box you’re going to select a male to pick it up,” Wall described.
She added despite the negativity, there are great people besides her and she continues to fight those stereotypes to become the hard-working, positive crew chief she wants to be.
“As a female, I think it is crucial to have a female role model in this career field,” said Airman 1st Class Casey Chase, a 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. “With a job that can be as stressful as this one, you need someone who you can connect more easily with.”
Chase added Wall always made herself available to assist herself and others leaving an encouraging impact on the Airmen around her.
“She not only gave instructions for the jobs at hand, but she also came to me with advice for remembering to not let this job get to me,” Chase said. “She stands up for herself and has confidence when anyone comes to her with a problem. That’s very empowering. Needless to say, I’m glad the squadron has someone like her.”
Chase added whenever she sees her, she has a smile on her face and she works as hard as she can.
“I’m being promoted to a staff sergeant this year and I wanted to distinguish myself from the rest on the flightline,” Wall said. “I wanted to be different so I could help other young women know there are many opportunities within maintenance for us to do awesome things, like join the demo team.”
Master Sgt. Jeff Parker, a 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit section chief, said although Wall’s first air show included the 2018 Singapore International Air Show, one of the world’s largest, she performed beyond expectations.
He added, regardless of gender, the team requires professionalism and strives for excellence during each show and her abilities exceeded those standards.
“I was excited because the 2018 Singapore International Airshow was my first trip with the team,” Wall said. “As ambassadors of the U.S., it’s all about how we look and present ourselves so every show must be executed with top professionalism and perfection.”
As a crew chief on the team, Wall inspects the engine and ensures the jet is in a prime, flyable condition, so the team can showcase the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s airpower and communicate reassurance to the U.S. Air Force’s partners and allies.
“I love the demo team,” Wall expressed. “It’s a fresh point of view. It was perfect for me because I wanted to travel and gain in-depth experience on the jet.”
Wall said she learned more about the F-16 because she closely worked with other aircraft maintainers that she normally doesn’t get to be around.
During airshows, the demonstration team consisting of three crew chiefs, one team lead crew chief, an electrical and engineering specialist, two avionics specialists and an engines specialist, who work with each other to accomplish one goal, to perform a great air show.
“When it comes to launching for a show, we all have the same values about getting the job done and executing it well,” Wall said.
She like how the demonstration team offers a little bit of a switch for environments each time they go somewhere different.
“I needed a change up,” Wall said. “Joining the demo team helped me see a different aspect of my job, which is important for everyone to experience in their career. Some people get stuck doing one thing for so long they become narrow-minded and end up not liking it.”
Not only does she enjoy her time with the team, she’s also grateful of the character the Air Force helped her build as a woman since she joined.
“Appreciate who you are as a woman,” Wall expressed. “It’s the best life lesson I’ve learned through the military. Being in the Air Force taught me to be tough even through hardship, and I have so much more confidence in who I am than before I enlisted.”
From her experience, she encourages all women to keep pushing through any life struggles.
“It’s tough no matter the job you’re in,” Wall said. “You’re going to be in a stressful environment. It’s not just the military, but you must be steadfast in who you are and don’t let those situations change you for the worse, use them to change you for the good.”