Wing Commander Does Not See Herself As Pioneer
Air National Guard Col.
Linda McTague does not see herself as a pioneer for women's
achievements, but she realizes that other people consider her to be
a role model for what women can accomplish in this country's
military service. And she said she strives very hard to live up to
those expectations, as well as to her own.
Colonel McTague is in a good position to take that kind of stock
in herself. She is the first woman to command an ANG wing, and is
believed to be the first woman to command an Air Force fighter
squadron, according to Air Force history office records.
Specifically, the woman from Battle Creek, Mich., assumed
command of the District of Columbia ANG's highly decorated 113th
Wing on Dec. 1.
That diverse wing with about 1,050 people includes the 121st
Fighter Squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons that is on alert for the
war against terrorism. The wing also has the 201st Airlift Squadron
that flies members of Congress and other dignitaries around the
world in a fleet of C-38 and C-40 operational-support
Here is the catch: Colonel McTague is not a fighter pilot. She
began as an operational support airlift pilot in 1988 before
serving as the 201st's commander for nearly four years beginning in
November 1997. She was the first woman to command an ANG flying
squadron, said Charles Gross, the Air National Guard's chief
That, she said, is an indication of how much military culture
has changed during the past decade, making it possible for women
and minorities to reach the level she has attained.
But a pioneer?
"I don't personally see
myself that way, because I've never felt the pressure to be a
pioneer, but if I'm realistic about the comments that I hear from
other people, I'd have to say that they do see me that way."
Colonel McTague said.
"I know this is something unique and something that, perhaps, a
lot of people are excited about and interested in, because it may
open paths and opportunities for them that they hadn't thought
about before, or that they can now do realistically," she said.
"It's not just a dream for them now."
Colonel McTague said many women did plenty of pioneering before
her, including the civilian Women Airforce Service Pilots, who
ferried military airplanes overseas plus towed targets and served
as instructor pilots during World War II.
She did say she is in the right place at the right time to
benefit from a change in attitudes toward women and toward people
who are not fighter pilots. That was helped, she said, by the
change in the law in 1992 that made it possible for women to fly
"Ten years ago, the culture was such that if you weren't a
fighter pilot, you were not going to be the wing commander," the
colonel said. "Now, we've had women in traditional male fields for
awhile, and our senior (leaders have) pushed the idea that we need
to be a diverse organization, to tap the resources that we have
available to us, and to not exclude anybody because of race or
And she does not feel out of place in the commander's office
because she is not one of the fighter pilots, even though "we exist
as a wing to support the fighter mission," she said. "I've been
given the opportunity to do a lot of jobs in this wing over the
years, so I think I was pretty well prepared when I was asked to be
"I don't think I have to fly the airplane to understand the F-16
mission," said Colonel McTague, who has earned her wings as a
command pilot while logging more than 5,250 hours in eight kinds of
aircraft in 23 years. That includes four years as an instructor
pilot and Wings of Blue pilot for the Air Force Academy in
"I've always relied on the experts,” she said.
Colonel McTague also
learned to respect and to rely on the enlisted force during her
tenure in maintenance, she said. The D.C. ANG's enlisted Airmen
gave her their highest tribute in 2001 by inducting her as an
honorary chief master sergeant.
Now she said she considers herself the ANG wing's advocate and
coach, whose most important job is preparedness and "to maximize
everybody's potential out here." This must be done while
maintaining the wing’s reputation as a team "that will not
settle for being less than the best."
Her plan is simple.
"I want to be a good listener. I have to be a good student of
dealing with people," Colonel McTague said. "I want to be polite
and respectful. I want to try to find the niche where everybody
will fit and contribute.
"I want to give people the opportunity to fulfill their personal
goals," she said. [ANN thanks USAF Master Sgt. Bob Haskell for