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Francis 178 FW's first female maintenance Chief

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Stahl
  • 178 FW, Public Affaris
"When I grow up, I want to be just like Ray," said then Staff Sgt. Michele Francis many years ago during a video interview with the public affairs office here. The "Ray" she was referring to was retired Chief Master Sgt. Ray Kidd, a highly-respected maintenance chief that many here at the 178th Fighter Wing remember well.
Chief Francis recently became the first female chief master sergeant in the male-dominated world of aircraft maintenance at the 178th Fighter Wing.
As a young Airman, Chief Francis never dreamed it would be possible to attain the rank of chief, especially in aircraft maintenance. Later on, after making technical sergeant she became more focused on leadership opportunities with the encouragement of mentors in her life such as the aircraft maintenance's Chief Master Sgts. Denny Dyer, Steve Smith, Al Fenton and Kidd. They taught her the delicate balance of caring for her people and accomplishing the mission.
"She (Chief Francis) helped me to change my mind about women on the flightline," said Chief Kidd. "She always did a good job. She always pulled her own weight and could figure out how to get things done on her own without any help."
Chief Francis began her career as a crew chief. At that time women weren't very welcome on the flightline.
"I probably put a lot more pressure on myself to do the job--do the same job that they were doing, maybe even better. I was going to prove myself," said Chief Francis
Later in her career, she worked in the Maintenance Operations Center and then was the phase dock supervisor for seven years.
"Ever since I moved up to MOC, I started getting a bigger picture of what maintenance was all about, not just the flightline," said Chief Francis--this is when she began believing that attaining the rank of chief master sergeant was a possibility.
Now, she is in the Maintenance Operations Flight which runs the MOC; Plans and Scheduling, Training, Plans and Programs; Engine Management; and Analysis.
She was selected as chief Dec. 1, 2009.
Chief Francis' former mentor, Chief Kidd, saw the ability to achieve long before Francis was named Chief.
"She never disappointed me. She was always willing to work and go the extra mile to get the job done," said Chief Kidd.
Chief Francis does not take her new rank for granted. She feels the extra weight and responsibility that the eight stripes command. As a Chief, she has to deal with all the big issues that she never had to deal with before.
"It's a learning process, more stressful," said Chief Francis of her new responsibilities.
"I want to live up to the title of chief, and not just the grade, E-9," she said.
Being a female chief in maintenance is not an issue for Chief Francis.
"It's not that hard because everybody knows me, and what I've done over the years to prove myself not just as a female chief, but as a maintenance chief," said Chief Francis.
Chief Francis believes that the proverbial glass ceiling no longer exists for women in the military.
"You are going to go as far as you want to go, you just have to put your mind to it," said Chief Francis about opportunities for women. "You might have to be willing to cross-train or go to a different shop, but it can definitely be done."
"Females are accepted, just prove yourself. Do the work as good as others and the sky is the limit," said Chief Francis.