Barksdale Global Power Museum New Exhibit Celebrates History of Women in the Air Force

The “BAFB Women’s Exhibit,” a new permanent exhibit at the Barksdale Global Power Museum, chronicles the rich history of women in the Air Force. The grand opening was held on June 12, Veterans Recognition Day and the 76th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which allowed women to serve as regular members of the armed forces. 

Within minutes after women became eligible, Esther McGowin Blake, then 51, joined the Army Air Force. A widow with two sons in the Army Air Force, she was inspired to join after one of her sons was shot down over Belgium and went missing. Both sons survived the war, and she served until 1954.

Over time, women took on much larger roles in all branches of the service. In 2015, the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat. Today, more than 230,000 women are on active military duty, including 70,000 in the Air Force. More than 1,000 of those are pilots. General Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of the 130,000-member U.S. Transportation Command, is the highest-ranking woman in the Air Force.

Elizabeth Micaletti, museum director/curator, said visitors have been curious about women’s history at Barksdale and this exhibit answers many of their questions.

“The timeline goes from the first woman to join in the 1940s to 2024,” Micaletti said. 

A collection of uniforms also reflects the stronger roles women have played in service to our country, starting with a World War I Red Cross nurse uniform through the uniform of retired Brigadier General Kristin Goodwin, former Commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale, who spoke at the grand opening.

The museum has nine galleries. Its mission is to educate the public about Air Force history, particularly Barksdale’s famed 2nd Bomb Wing, part of the 8th Air Force. The “Mighty Eighth” is the largest bomb wing in the Air Force Global Strike Command. Supported by more than 15,000 active-duty Air Force Reserve members and civilians, the 2nd Bomb Wing was started in World War I and has operated out of Barksdale since 1963.

Twenty planes in the museum’s airpark make up one of the largest collections of historic Air Force airplanes. World War II planes include B-17 bombers, B-24 bombers, and a P-51 Mustang. Planes from the Cold War (1947 to 1991), include the B-52D and B-52G Stratofortress. There is also a MACH 3+ SR-71 Blackbird and a B-1B Lancer. 

Admission is free, but visitors need a pass to get in because of the high level of security at the base. Someone with a pass can sponsor you, or you can apply for one using the form found on the website here.

Goodwin said she decided to join the Air Force when she was 10 and was driven to succeed.

“My mantra became: PEOPLE, MISSION, PRIDE. These priorities are universal and applicable to both military and civilian organizations.”

“Women bring a different perspective, a different way of approaching opportunities, but also (women) work with the rest of the team to just make us better,” said. Goodwin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *