Ohio National Guard News

Celebrating Women's History Month

179th Airlift Wing women making history

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Harwood, Airman 1st Class Christi Richter and
Airman 1st Class Megan Shepherd 179th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

The top two each highest-ranking officers and enlisted Airmen in the 179th Airlift Wing are Chief April R. Gunnoe (from left), 179th Material Management Flight chief; Col. Allison C. Miller, who recently became thefirst female wing commander in Ohio Air National Guard history; Col. Patricia L. Barr, 179th Mission Support Group commander; and Chief Master Sgt. Dana M. Togliatti, 179th Force Support Squadron superintendent. In celebration of March as Women’s History Month, the 179th AW is highlighting several of its female Airmen who do their part to contribute to the wing’s success.

MANSFIELD, Ohio (03-19-218) — March is observed nationally as Women’s History Month. One way to highlight the history of women in the Air National Guard is to observe them making history today at the 179th Airlift Wing.

Women at the 179th AW are outnumbered by male Airmen. Currently the unit is less than 25 percent female, which is not unusual for any military installation, but with a goal to increase the number to 30 percent by 2026. As the unit approaches its 70th anniversary, it strives to reach further milestones of empowering female Airmen.

Recently, the unit has made history by appointing Col. Allison C. Miller as the first female wing commander in Ohio Air National Guard history. Last year, Col. Patricia L. Barr became the mission support group commander and joined Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Kelly L. Shifflet as the first dual female leadership. The Comptroller Flight received its first female commander in Maj. Cassandra L. Ostrowsky.

The enlisted ranks have produced strong female leadership as well. Chief Master Sgt. Heidi A. Bunker was selected from the unit to be the command chief for the 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio. The 179th AW currently has two female chief master sergeants, Chief Dana M. Togliatti and Chief April R. Gunnoe.

In honor and recognition of these strong and impactful women, the 179th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office throughout the month is highlighting the contributions of several women throughout the wing.

Following are a few of the inspiring stories.
See more on the 179th AW’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Photo by Airman 1st Class Christi Richter

Airman 1st Class Haiat Awad works as a command support staff specialist at the 179th Airlift Wing. Her responsibilities include making sure maintenance members have all appropriate paperwork and documentation.

Awad joined the Air National Guard for all of the opportunities that it offered.

“Coming from a background of poverty, growing up we didn’t have a lot of money. I didn’t know about the Air National Guard, and then I learned they would pay for my school. I think the Guard is a great opportunity for younger girls. I love when I tell them about the Guard and they seem so intrigued,” she said.


Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Tech. Sgt. Sadana Cornell first joined the Ohio Air National Guard 18 years ago as part of the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus, Ohio. Cornell was going to college in Columbus and sought a way to pay for school.

“When I first joined, it was significantly different. Leadership positions were for the men, they always had been,” Cornell said. “Females were traditionally in administrative roles, so I navigated through many different administrative roles in my career.”

During Cornell's career, she sought change and growth in a variety of different career fields and sections helped broaden her perspective of the wing and how it accomplishes the mission. Cornell said she notices a significant growth in the number of females since she joined. READ MORE

Photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Shepherd

Senior Airman Raven Jones is a part of the commander's support staff in the maintenance group at the 179th. In her position, she monitors all things readiness-related for her fellow maintainers to ensure they are deployable and that their paper work is in order for evaluations and promotions

As part of the orderly room, she ensures members get compensated properly by assisting with Defense Travel System vouchers and writing the military orders that activate members for temporary duty or active-duty tours.

“I feel the work we do in our office is very important,” Jones said. “We help the maintainers with stuff they don't normally know how to do. They are super good with the aircraft, not so good with computers.”


Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Lisa Francis

Chaplain (Capt.) Sarah Ditto is breaking glass-ceilings at the 179th Airlift Wing. In a world where many religions advocate that women should not minister in a pastoral role, Ditto is a third generation minister in her family.

Ditto entered active-duty Air Force as an enlisted member and after four years, returned home to join the 179th Airlift Wing in 2005. In 2012, she became the first female chaplain commissioned at the 179th AW.

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


Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Staff Sgt. Vanessa Oswalt first joined the National Guard eight years ago as human resources specialist in the Colorado Army National Guard. Oswalt returned to her home and family in Ohio when she joined the Ohio Air National Guard in 2017, and is currently working full time at the 179th Airlift Wing in the Comptroller Flight and holds a traditional position in the Force Support Squadron.

While she was in the Colorado Guard, Oswalt was also a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program as a wrestler, competing on the women’s U.S. National Team and the Army Team. Oswalt wrestled all over the world and trained with partner nations during her time with the program. And when she returned home to Ohio last year, she began serving as an assistant wrestling coach at her alma mater, Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

“I’m a girly-girl so people are very surprised to hear that I’m in the military and then I say that I’m in wrestling and they are even more surprised,” Oswalt said. “In the military they might envision short hair or that we are all very hard or others might think that we can’t hang with the guys, but I feel like knowing them, I can say that the females here are not weak and I can’t think of one that doesn’t deserve to be here.”  READ MORE

Photo by Airman 1st Class Christi Richter

Airman 1st Class Sophia Marshall is a crew chief at the 179th, which is traditionally a male-dominated career field.

“What I’m doing is no different from what the men are doing. We’re treated just as equally as men, you just have to pull your own weight,” Marshall said.

Marshall has big plans for her Air Force career and said she hopes to eventually become a pilot.


Photo by Airman 1st Class Christi Richter

Staff Sgt. Logan May is a logistics management specialist at the 179th Airlift Wing. The mission of Logistics Management is to support the mission as a whole and provide necessary materials for members of the wing.

May thinks the Air National Guard can be a great work environment for women.

“The military is awesome,” May said. “It gives you so many opportunities and it’ll build your confidence. I think for women, sometimes they don’t have a certain place maybe on the civilian side, but you come here and you’re an equal and it’s nice to be viewed as such.”


Photo by Airman 1st Class Christi Richter

Senior Airman Dana Rolfes works in generator maintenance at the 179th.

Rolfes is the only woman in her section. With the female enlistment rate being only 19 percent in the Air Force currently, women at the 179th are making history every day. Rolfes has immense pride in being part of this history.

“Being a part of this mission makes me proud,” she said. “I feel a sense of responsibility and honor. I love telling people what I do.”


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