GREAT FALLS — March is Women's History Month - a 31-day celebration of historical female figures and facts.
To celebrate, each year Malmstrom Air Force Base mobilizes an all-female flight crew to serve in the missile field.
This year Malmstrom will extend opportunities to serve in the missile field to different career fields, like maintenance and security forces.
While Malmstrom's upcoming events highlight women, they also serve as a reminder of gender equality within the Air Force.
1st Lieutenant Avril Sammis, a missile officer, said it's important to highlight women's achievements this month to show that gender equality does exist within the field.
“It shows that there is limitless opportunity. You can come in. You can make a difference. It doesn't matter who you are. The women that have come in before us and made this path, so that we are equals,” Sammis said.
Sammis said in her 15 years of service she’s never felt unequal to her male counterparts.
“I've always felt like an equal in the military," she said. "So coming in it was never, are you a male or a female? Which job’s more female-centric or male-centric? That never even came up. So, when I came in, I was just an airman.”
The missileer has noticed more women joining the Air Force during her 15 years of service: “In my experience I’ve noticed that the amount of females I work with has gone from a few here and there to - we’re as equal as our male brother.
She believes male and female airmen are equal not only in number but in duty.
“Job-wise, duty-wise, command responsibility - we all have the same opportunities,” Sammis said.
The Malmstrom AFB website provides several examples of women breaking barriers in the military:
In 1998 Capt. Kathleen McGrath became the first female to command a U.S. Navy Warship.
In 2008, Ann E. Dunwoody became the first female in U.S. history to achieve the rank of four-star General.
In 2016, Gen. Lori Robinson was the first woman to take charge of a unified combatant command.
In January 2016, all roles in the armed forces, including combat roles, were opened up to women. This means we now have females in infantry roles in the Army and Marines and women who are able to graduate the qualifying courses will be able to serve in Special Forces units.