MIDDLETOWN, Pa. --
State Command Chief Master Sgt. Regina Stoltzfus, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, has served 34 years in the military. She began her career in the Active Duty Air Force and then transitioned to the PAANG in 1986 under the Palace Chase program. She became the first female assigned as the 193rd Special Operations Wing command chief master sergeant. She has since continued on to become the first woman to serve as a state command chief.
In celebration of Women’s History Month Stoltzfus shared some insight.
Can you share what you do in your job on a daily basis?
As the State Command Chief, I do a lot of coordination with the wing command chiefs, commanders and National Guard Bureau.
I review promotion packages, award packages and first sergeant functions; most importantly I advise Deputy Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Michael Regan. I get to do some really cool stuff like have dinner with the Lithuania U.S. Ambassador, travel and meet heads of state.
My favorite thing to do is interact with our Airmen. It is truly awesome.
What was your “Call to Adventure” to join the military? Was there a specific moment or a collection of events that transpired that made you join?
I didn’t want to go to college right out of high school. I was a “C” plus student; I didn’t apply myself the way I should have and determined I needed a break from school.
I joined the active duty AF instead in 1983. My recruiter promised me I would be able to “travel and see the world.” That sounded adventurous to me so I signed up. I had opportunities to join other branches but decided against it for these reasons:
Navy – In 1983 bellbottoms were not in style, and I didn’t want to be seen in those.
Army – They were too overbearing and persistent.
Marines – Very simple; they frightened me.
Air Force – I liked the blue uniform.
From the female perspective what are some of the major tests that you have had to overcome during your military career? How did you succeed or fail? What helped you during these tests?
I was pretty clueless as an 18 year old.
I learned very quickly to carry my weight, and triumphantly stumbled through during my first year. Many of times, I was the “only girl.” With that comes positive and negative attention. I learned by my own mistakes and from the mistakes of others.
I had a lot of “falling down” in my career, but learned to go home and pout and be done with it; stand up quickly, shake off knees, hold your head high, burrow down in work, make stuff happen, and somebody will notice and you will forgive your failures.
Even today, in the peer group I am sitting in the state command chief position, sometimes I am the only woman, and the lowest ranking at times. Your voice is what matters.
Who did you meet along the way that stands out as someone that has helped you, whether it be a mentor, friend, whomever?
Many people helped me along the way. I never really had a bad supervisor. I learned more from bad leaders than good leaders, what never to do or repeat.
I did have a lot of role models growing up, and worked extra hard to seek out more. Most of my role models and mentors were men however, some were women.
Many gave me critical advice that I may not have been prepared to hear and this was crucial to my career. Everybody needs a little critical advice or a lot. Emotional intelligence helped me to process it and learn from it. I am mentored just as much from young Airmen who inspire me and continue to mentor me all the time.
How do you think you’ve changed, mentally and physically?
The AF and ANG have aided me to become quite resilient. I have quite a few battle scars but they do not define who I am as a person, they are just a part of the whole makeup of me.
I consider myself a strong, successful woman who raised a strong daughter with 10 times the confidence of myself at her age. I am still learning and changing, still make mistakes and am far from perfect. Physically, I am in decent shape because of our standards.
How has the culture of women’s contributions in the military changed throughout the course of your career?
I am amazed on the contribution of women in the military throughout history. Back in World War II women flew, worked on aircraft, and then they didn’t, and then they did again. So, women have taken one step forward and two steps back in some cases and today we are breaking glass ceilings all over the place. This is truly inspiring.
I have lived the “Me Too” movement and was part of the culture change. I thank all the women who have come before me who paved the way for me, and hopefully, I have raked the leaves out of the way for those that will come after me.
Do you have any advice for Airmen to succeed? Is there any advice they should ignore?
Listen! When you have the opportunity to speak, then by all means, be courageous and speak your mind; leadership wants to know what is on your mind. Really, they do. Find your voice, if you should lose it along the way then get it back.
When adversity hits you, don’t wallow in it. No need to marinate in your own stress, get help. When your world gets cloudy, or goes dark for whatever reason, go seek help and this too shall pass.
When you see the light, you will come out a more resilient you. You’re going to make mistakes, which is ok, nobody is perfect, just learn from them and try not to repeat.
The best advice I can give is to learn from the mistakes of others. Be gracious, thankful and help each other.
You will not always be rewarded for your good deeds, so the only thanks you will get is knowing that you made a difference for someone else that day. Don’t forget to smile, people will smile back and it’s contagious.