185th ARW women making history

  • Published
  • By AlC Olivia Monk
  • 185th ARW

In 1948 a law was passed officially allowing women to serve in all branches of the Armed Forces and so today the Department of Defense celebrates March as Women’s History Month.

Women have played a huge role in the 185th Air Refueling Wing beginning in 1963 with 2nd Lt. Patricia O’Brien, a nurse and the first female member of the unit.

A group of women in the medical field at the 185th ARW in Sioux City, Iowa have recently made some history of their own and have taken big strides in their military careers.

For the first time at the 185th ARW, the base Medical Group has its first female commander, Lt. Col. Debbie Jacobsmeier. Jacobsmeier was the base’s former Medical Readiness Officer, and was recently promoted to the Commander of the Medical Group. This change of command placed her at the highest position in the Medical Group. 

Women have played a large part of our past,” said Jacobsmeier. “I love that we recognize that. I am proud to be one of the women that other younger women can look at and think about how they can also be in the position that I am in as their career develops.”

Another successful woman in the Medical Group is 1st Lt. Amber Franco, the base’s Medical Administrative Officer.

Franco said she is thankful there is acknowledgment for women in the military, but recognition for any service member is a good thing.

 “I have personally felt unique complexities during my career as a woman in a leadership position, both militarily and as a civilian,” Franco said. I don’t hold a gender-biased mentality as I value the strengths both men and women possess, but being recognized for Women’s Heritage sheds an awareness that women leaders do exist; we make waves and drive the overall vision and mission for the military.” 

The 185th ARW has high ranking women on the enlisted side as well. Chief Master Sgt. Mellisa Sanchez is the Medical Group Superintendent. Sanchez has been in the military over 20 years and currently holds the highest rank for enlisted service members. 

Sanchez expressed she is honored to serve in the military.

“Not only being a woman, but being a Hispanic woman and serving is a great honor for me,” Sanchez said. “I feel like diversity is key in any organization and leadership. I like to say “If everyone is thinking alike, then nobody is thinking”. I believe that everyone has come from different walks of life and each person brings a different perspective to each situation. I hold this very close in my thoughts when I speak to others. Two individuals may have the same goals, but seeing how to reach a goal differently can help us better understand each other. I believe we need to consider all perspectives to get the full picture.”

Women at the 185th ARW hold many other leadership positions, including the unit’s Vice Wing Commander and the Security Forces Squadron Commander.

These are just a few of the women at the 185th ARW that since 1963 continue to inspire the next generation of women to make history.


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