Breaking Barriers: Celebrating Women’s History Month with Master Sgt. Shelise Harmon

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

"Women have always played a vital role in defending our country, from the Revolutionary War to the present day,” said former First Lady Michelle Obama. “Their service and sacrifice should be honored and celebrated," This year’s Women’s History Month theme celebrates 'Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,' inspiring a call to honor and empowering diverse voices.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Shelise Harmon, 25th Fighter Generation Squadron first sergeant, exemplifies this ethos daily. Her commitment isn't just a job; it's a reflection of her core values, seamlessly aligning with the theme of honoring and uplifting fellow Airmen.

Harmon’s journey started when she attended the First Sergeant’s Symposium during her first tour at Osan AB in 2017. Her career field was small and she was worried that her application would get denied, but that didn’t stop her from going after her goal.

“I had great leadership that told me I would excel at this job,” Harmon reflected. “I took their words into consideration. It lit a fire under me to continue striving to become a first sergeant.”

Harmon dedicated 16 years of her career as a physical occupational therapy technician. Despite her passion for her previous job, Harmon felt a profound calling to serve as a first sergeant and support her fellow Airmen.

“I’ve always been a person who enjoys taking care of people,” said Harmon. “I’ve wanted to be in a position where I can affect change.”

While Harmon loved working in a medical field and helping others, she was beginning to feel burned out and tired. Harmon explained that her passion for working with others was reignited at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, by U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Amy Miller, 673rd Medical Group functional manager.

As her squadron superintendent, Miller asked Harmon what her goals were. Harmon explained that while she wanted to work hard and continue to do her job as well as she could, she did not have a desire to do more than that. Miller took it upon herself to challenge Harmon because she believed in her ability to adapt and grow.

“Who’s going to tell their boss no,” she laughed. “I was challenged. If I’m asked to do something, I’m going to do my best. I never would’ve learned or grown as much as I did if she had allowed me to be complacent.”

She attributed her successes from that point onward to Miller and the team she worked with during her time at Barksdale AFB.

When posed with the question about any advice she had for other women, she replied, “Don’t be afraid to go after your aspirations. Be a part of Air Force history in any way that you can. Every day you put on the uniform, you’re making your mark on our history.”