As leadership drives home the need for diversity, “the goal to reach 30% is very do-able” said the first female commander at the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, Col. Allison C. Miller as she discussed the population of women in the military. Looking across the sea of faces working at her Ohio Air National Guard Unit, she noted that female members nearly reach 25% of the 1100 personnel and 19% throughout the Air Force.

March is Women’s History Month and the 179th AW is highlighting women making history across the unit and the Ohio Air National Guard.

The Air Force is making huge strides to recruit and retain women, from making all jobs available to women, offering height waivers for pilot positions and longer maternity deferrals, and aggressively attacking the sexual assault and harassment issues for safer work places. Overall, women in the military are underrepresented in the officer ranks and in certain job categories.

Captain Chaplin Sarah Ditto from the 179th AW Chaplain Corp, is breaking glass-ceilings in multiple ways and the choice to enter the military chaplain program was a difficult path to take.

In a world where many religions still feels that women should not minister in a pastoral role, Chaplain Ditto is a third generation preacher in her family. Ditto entered active duty Air Force as an enlisted member and after 4 years, returned home to join the 179th Airlift Wing in 2005.

In 2012, she became the first female chaplain commissioned at the 179 AW. “It was a difficult path,” she recently shared. First, she had to find a college that would allow women to enter into the Masters of Divinity program. Then, she need to find an ecclesiastical endorsing agency. She needed to find an endorser who believed what she believed and not conform to someone else’s values.

Her grandfather was a Methodist preacher and her mom an ordain minister, she grew up as a preachers daughter. With tears in her eyes, she said “When I struggled against all the resistance, my mom was there to support me. She inspired me, she paved the way and helped me believe that women are called into this career and women can “DO.”” After 17 years in the military she says, “I didn’t know any other female chaplains when I started this journey; I am the only female chaplain in the State of Ohio and my mom remains my truest inspiration and I love her very much.”

“I bring a unique aspect to my field. I am able to offer a woman’s perspective.” Ditto is a wife and mother of 2 young daughters. “Sometimes the stresses of being a wife, a mother, a full-time worker, a military member and a full-time caretaker, women needs a female perspective and understanding.”

“The military isn’t just for men anymore. There are things that women can do that we haven’t accomplished yet. All women serving now are paving the way for the young women coming. We are all role models,” Ditto shared. “Set your mind to it. Accomplish your goals, don’t let roadblocks stop you, whether it’s race, gender, or education. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t because you can!”

Ditto finished off by saying “Being in the Air National Guard has increased my strength in everything that I choose to do and my confidence in how I act. Being a chaplain boosts my confidence and shows me my importance and I’m able to see the difference I make.”

Read about another trailblazer today on 1812Blockhouse. In the first post in our new “Richland Roots” series, we look at the life of Lloyd Garrison Wheeler, a native Mansfielder who broke through racial barriers in post-Civil War America. You can read that story by clicking here.

Source, Photo: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. “The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

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