USAFHG recognizes first female ceremonial guardsmen
By 1st Lt. Esther Willett, Air Force District of Washington Public Affairs
/ Published March 09, 2016
JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington D.C. -- The United States Air Force Honor Guard honored the first five female ceremonial guardsmen on the Ceremonial Lawn and at the Bolling Club, Mar. 8.
Members of the USAFHG participated in a formal lawn ceremony during which four of the five first female Honor Guard members, Lt. Col. Cindi Feldwisch, Master Sgt. (ret.) Margaret Jones, Madelyn Ritz, and Elizabeth Byer, served as the reviewing officials for the pass in review.
"As a former member of the Air Force Honor Guard, I can tell you that it takes an unrivaled level of dedication, discipline, and determination to serve as a ceremonial guardsman, but it takes something more to fight to serve," said Lt. Col. (ret.) Betsy Adams, the first female Honor Guard commander. "The United States Honor Guard is stronger today because of the courageous stand you took 40 years ago."
Following the lawn ceremony, honorees and participants attended a ribbon-cutting as AFHG Commander Lt. Col. Peter Tritsch unveiled a new display case at the Honor Guard headquarters building which documents the experiences of the first female ceremonial guardsmen with pictures, mementos, and uniforms.
"In 1976, as each service was changing its viewpoints on how women would serve in the military, there was a study to see if we could bring women into this unit," said Tritsch. "While all the other services were fighting to maintain the status quo, the Air Force Honor Guard leadership agreed to bring 30 women into the unit. 40 years later, this unit has finally achieved that goal. These ladies didn't just break the glass ceiling, they destroyed it. And they didn't just destroy it for the Air Force, but for our joint service partners as well."
The day concluded with an open panel discussion at the Bolling Club during which the women responded to questions about how they were treated and the constraints around their service, as well as their most treasured memories as ceremonial guardsmen.
"I remember us taking one step at a time," said Col. (ret.) Charles Spriggs, who served as the females' flight commander in 1976. "We were so committed, not because we were told to, but because we thought it was the right thing to do. We were all on the same page. We were going to make it work."
The women shared about what it was like to train and serve with a male-dominated unit.
"The men in the unit treated us like sisters. It was an incredible camaraderie," said Lt. Col. Cindi Feldwisch, one of the first four women to complete Honor Guard training. "There was no 'I am special' designation. We were just there to do our jobs."
Lt. Col. (ret.) Betsy Adams shared about her experience as the Honor Guard Commander on 9/11.
"When the aircraft hit the Pentagon, we had a team that watched the aircraft impact the building," Adams said. "That was the day ceremonial guardsmen became Airmen because they secured our facilities, accounted for all of our people and we got everyone home safely."
The event was designed to honor women, both past and present, who have served in the Air Force Honor Guard as part of the Air Force's Women's History Month.
"There is a reason we honor our past. When we honor our past, it enables your future," said Mr. Ken Holmes, historian for the unit. "Our responsibility is to recognize and understand that this elite organization was built on the shoulders of the giants who came before you. I challenge you to go back and paint a vibrant picture of your future based on an understanding of what these ladies and all the predecessors who came before you have done."