Judie and I spent 35 years in the Air Force, and during those years, we spent a year and a half with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
I was a forward air controller and made 66 parachute jumps as a paratrooper. I spent two years in combat during the Vietnam War. The first year, 1966, I was an advisor to the Vietnam Air Force, flying combat with them in A-1 Skyraider fighter airplanes. My second-year tour, 1971, I was a colonel and the head of operations, flying F-4 fighters, this time over Hanoi. During those years, there were no women in direct combat roles.
Fortunately for our country, I am proud to say these restrictions on women are no longer in effect. We now have women flying our fighter planes and our bombers, tankers, transports, helicopters, rescue airplanes and trainers — they’re doing a great job. And I’m proud to say we have them flying with the Air Force demonstration team known as The Thunderbirds.
The topic of women in the military will be explored at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Vail Valley luncheon on Aug. 8 at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. Journalist and author Helen Thorpe will be joined by three female veterans profiled in her new book, “Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War.”
Women also are in critical leadership positions throughout the military. The heads of both the Army and Air Force Material Commands are female four-star generals. The superintendent of the Air Force Academy is a female three-star lieutenant general. We have more female generals now than ever before, and I predict there will be many more in the future. Not because they are women — but because they have earned it.
Advances in science, technology, engineering and math afford opportunities for women in whichever career path they choose. The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s mission is to proactively help women explore, seek education, define goals and focus on the areas of opportunity to achieve greater economic security. The Foundation’s success rate in helping these women is measured in research reports, forums to discuss and define issues for women and in partnerships with community groups and leaders.
Empowering women and girls to achieve economic independence is a core value of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado. However, empowerment goes both ways. We need to empower women, and we need to have businesses do their part to help employees reach their potential.
The importance of leadership trends throughout the work of The Women’s Foundation. Simply defined, a leader is one who has followers. A leader sees things through the eyes of followers and affirms that team spirit. She is a self-starter, a person of thought and action. The Women’s Foundation of Colorado encourages women to become leaders.
Military women and men, like our civilian counterparts, strive for success. The definition of success varies from person to person, and no two paths are the same. However, The Women’s Foundation strives to help women find their way in the world — a path that leads them to economic self-sufficiency and reaching their full potential.
Gen. Jack T. Chain Jr. and Judie Chain are honorary chairs of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado annual luncheon. Jack Chain spent 35 years in the Air Force and is quick to note that his wife, Judie, was with him every step of the way. Married in 1956, the Chains moved 26 times and have lived in France, Germany, Belgium and all over the U.S. Judie Chain has assisted Air Force support organizations and has been active in Officers’ Wives’ Clubs since 1958 and has been a member of its board of governors for many years.