SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
Women’s History Month is celebrated nationally to recognize the many achievements and contributions women have made throughout the course of our country’s history. One of the many ways women have contributed is through military service.
Throughout history, women have served our country, often without the same recognition as their male counterparts. This month, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base honors Marian Loreta Porter who served in the Women in the Air Force (WAF) as a medical supply technician and in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a motor pool specialist.
“I entered the WAF in October 1972 from my hometown of Evansville, Indiana and I served for four years,” said Porter. “I joined to get away from home, but back then we didn’t have all the options to go to school and all that stuff. After my service, I went back home and it was the same so I joined the WAC the same year in 1976 and served two years.”
As an African American woman in the service Porter faced many challenges. Her determination to persevere through hard work and commitment to her country helped her overcome obstacles and succeed.
“When I started in the Army, there weren’t many women that served in transportation,” said Porter. “At first, I was driving tractor trailers and they had to put wooden blocks on the pedals for me to be able to drive because I was too short. There was a regulation about not having those blocks so they threw me on VIP, the best thing they could have ever done for me.”
Porter recalled one of her experiences driving VIP.
“One of the best VIP’s I ever had was driving Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr,” said Porter.
“It was funny, the motor pool gave me a little comet to pick up these two giant men. I called for a new vehicle and got a lot of flak about it. In the end we had to leave their luggage at the airport because it wouldn’t fit. I had Gen. Chappie sitting in the back seat all scrunched up, I was so embarrassed. We went back to the motor pool, straight to my supervisor’s office and after that I never had another problem driving VIP.”
Although difficult at times, Porter enjoyed aspects of her military career such as building relationships and traveling the world.
“What I enjoyed most about the military is the people and all of the places I traveled to,” said Porter. “I wouldn’t have been able to travel if I hadn’t joined the military. I went temporary duty to Korea, Japan, Hawaii, the Philippines and Vietnam. I have been to every state except North and South Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming.”
Throughout her time in service, Porter fondly recalls maintaining her service unifom.
“We spent a lot of time spit shining shoes, which really took a lot of discipline,” said Porter. “Those blue pants were the worst things to try and iron, they had to have a crease. The shoes that they have now are a lot easier to take care of and the uniforms are a lot easier to take care of.”
Porter also recalled the differences between the male and female uniforms.
“When I saw the men get dress pants, I wondered why we didn’t get dress pants,” said Porter. “Our legs were cold too. I remember standing out in formation, in the cold, wearing a skirt, pantyhose and pumps.”
From uniform and hair regulations to career opportunities, Porter along with many other military women from past generations influenced the changes military women have today.
“If we hadn’t stood up and complained and fought like we did, a lot of the changes wouldn’t have taken place,” said Porter. “I initially went into the Air Force as air traffic control and I didn’t get it because I was a female. I found out after basic training and graduation that we don’t have females in traffic control. A lot has changed, because when I go out to the flightline and see the women walking around out there, I know they are not just sitting behind a desk, they are making those birds fly and flying them. If that was possible when I was in, I probably would have been up in one of those birds myself.”
This Women’s History Month, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base salutes Marian Porter’s military service and thanks her for her continued dedication as a certified service officer for Disabled American Veterans, in Goldsboro, North Carolina, a mentor for the Rosewood High School JROTC program, her involvement in Kappa Epsilon Psi military sorority and as a volunteer for the United Service Organization of North Carolina on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
“Marian Porter is an amazing person,” said Torette Williams, USO of N.C. center manager. “She is a servant leader who has volunteered for many of the events on base. She makes a real impact on base.”
The military is constantly changing and evolving to better meet the needs of its service members.
“For the future women coming into the military, I would love to see more officers and more senior noncommissioned officers,” said Porter. “In my time you did good if you got past the grade of E-4. When I see women with rank higher than that it brings tears to my eyes because I am happy for them.”