Female Servicemember Adds to Wing's Legacy

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161 ARW PA
Legacies are created by people doing great things, breaking down barriers and overcoming challenges. In the Air National Guard there are a lot of examples of these kinds of legacies - whether we add or detract from them is up to the individual servicemember.

The 161st Air Refueling Wing has many of these kinds of legacies. One of these legacies is female pilots. Capt. Marilyn Koon, former servicemember of the 161 ARW, was the first female pilot in the Air National Guard and also led the first all-female refueling mission in 1984 (all of the aircrew were from the 161 ARW).

The 161 ARW currently has four female pilots, including Capt. Tamela Demik, 161st Operations Group, chief of current operations.

Influenced by her father, a civilian pilot, Capt. Demik decided she wanted to be a pilot at a very young age, "probably around the 8th grade," she said; however, she never let being a female keep her from the career field. She graduated pilot training in 2006 at the top of her class and won every award the school had to offer, which meant a lot to her she said, especially because out of the 24 students only two were females.

Joining the 161 ARW in 2004, she said it was the legacy of women in the Wing that made her want to join this particular unit.

"I read an article about the first female tanker crew and I thought that it was such an outstanding legacy that I had to be a part of it," said Captain Demik, "and it really has held true. Everyone in the [161 ARW] really accepts females, and not just as pilots, but in all career fields. The best thing I can do to add to this legacy is to hold myself to the highest standard possible, as well as mentoring other females in this career field."

"I actually have a lot of fun as a female pilot flying with the 'guys' - I tease them a lot," she added. "Plus, I get a lot more interest from [civilians] as a female pilot and its fun to talk to and encourage young girls into looking at being a pilot as a career."

She said that the one thing she likes to tell these young girls is to "look at everything. Don't hold yourself back just because you are a female. If there is any job in the world that you think you may want to do, you should go for it."