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Second chances set stage for Airman’s ultimate success

  • Published
  • By Michele Ruff
  • Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command

When Holly Maser left Wyoming in 1998 to join the Air Force, she wanted a challenge.  She told her recruiter that she didn’t want a “girl job.”

It took a little coaxing to get them to take that request seriously, but after testing, she was offered three career fields and chose to become an aircraft mechanic with a specialty in F-16 and F-15 engines.

Women’s History Month focuses on women who took a challenge and achieved success in a traditionally male-dominated world.

“When I started out, there weren’t very many female mechanics,” said Maser. “I think this month is important so that today’s girls can see how far we have come and what they can do–without limits.”

When she got to her first base, Maser was one of only three women in the section. From the very start, she felt it was important to do every aspect of her job well, no matter how physically demanding.

“I never had anyone tell me that I couldn’t do it, I just wanted to prove to myself that I was not a damsel in distress,” she said

As a brand new Airman, Maser excelled at the on-the-job training, but she was not as interested in the Career Development Courses.

“The CDCs--the book stuff--were not a priority for me,” said Maser. “I took my end of course exam and failed.”

That failure was a wake-up call. When she was told that she was going to be discharged, she fought it.

“I went to my first sergeant, coincidentally also a women, and begged for a second chance,” said Maser. “That sergeant believed in me and helped prove to the commander that I was worth the risk.”

Maser served as an active duty Airman for 10 years and then switched to the Air Force Reserves and then the inactive Reserves when she had her three children.

She became a civilian working in the Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command Inspector General Office, but her urge to serve was strong.  After a divorce, she decided that it made sense to go back to the Reserves. There were no openings as a mechanic at the time, so she was offered the option of cross-training into aircraft transportation and took it.

“It didn’t sound very exciting,” said Maser. “But I went to tech school and fell in love with being a port dog.”

The extra training was also beneficial to her current civilian job in IG, as she can now inspect in two logistics management areas: aircraft maintenance and air transportation.

Serving her country is in her blood, but also knows it’s not always easy balancing her career and single motherhood.

The second chance she was given at her first base never left her thoughts. That incident was also a turning point for another reason. Maser had decided right then that someday she was going to go to bat for others and become a first sergeant as well.

That dream happened last year when her Reserves commander asked her if she was still interested.

“Of course I said yes,” said Maser, “I was sent for a board the very next day–what a whirlwind!”

Maser was only a technical sergeant, but what her commander knew and she didn’t was that master sergeant was right around the corner. Her new stripe came with a diamond on her sleeve.

Maser has now been a first sergeant for the 455th Security Force Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for a year; she graduated from the First Sergeant Academy this past January.

“Being a first sergeant is not that different from being a mom,” said Maser. “I listen, plan events, fight for my people and take care of them.”

She acknowledges that women may not be as strong physically, but they have other attributes that make up for it such as multitasking, empathy for others and knowing when to ask for help.

She also knows firsthand that sometimes you need to lean on friends and also seek out advice from other, more experienced individuals.

“I love talking to people and hearing about their lives,” said Maser. “And now it’s in my power to help them work through difficult situations and achieve their goals.”

Editor’s Note:  This story is part of a series of stories in honor of Women’s History Month and highlight extraordinary women from across Air Force Materiel Command who are making history today.