Breaking Barriers: Celebrating Women’s History

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kaitlin Frazier
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

In 1948, the first woman joined the U.S. Air Force the moment female enlistment was authorized, inspiring generations of female service members. This year’s Women’s History Month theme celebrates “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.”

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Vanessa Okyere, 51st Comptroller Squadron financial accountant technician, is one of Osan’s Airmen who continues to answer her nation’s call in her every day actions.

Okyere grew up in Ghana, West Africa, and moved to the U.S. after graduating high school at 17 years old. After taking a few classes at her local community college, she knew she wanted to do something bigger than herself and decided to join the military.

“I always knew I was destined for something greater,” said Okyere. “The Air Force was the best environment for me to grow and helped me become the person I’ve always wanted to be.”

As an immigrant, she reflected on a period of loneliness and feeling like an outsider when she first moved to the U.S. Adjusting to a different time zone and becoming accustomed to new cultural norms was initially a struggle. While she missed her friends and the community she had back in Ghana, she felt right at home with her flight at basic military training.

“I really connected with the girls around me,” she reminisced. “We laughed and talked to each other. I never felt out of place.”

Serving as the president of the private organization, Women Inspiring the Next Generation’s Success, Okyere partnered with the Osan Middle High School to host a panel focusing on women in STEM for International Women’s Day.

“It’s so important to have women in these spaces,” said Okyere. “Women who have broken barriers and have gotten to the pinnacle of their careers serve as role models to the younger generation.”

She smiled brightly as she spoke about the many women in her life who have inspired her over the years throughout her military career.

“These women make a space for me,” said Okyere. “I’m so grateful for my community. They pray for me, they encourage me, they make me laugh. I’m so blessed to be able to share sisterhood and womanhood with all the women in my life.”

Okyere passionately advocated for diversity in the military, emphasizing the invaluable contributions and values female Airmen bring to the forefront of military service.

“Women bring a different perspective and ideas to the table,” she said. “We are a minority in the military, but we are also resilient.”

When asked what advice she would give to women considering military service, Okyere replied without hesitation, “Do it.”