Air Force Master Sgt. Miller inspires Rock Canyon High School female athletes to soar in their careers

Master Sgt. Lisa Miller recently visited female student athletes from Rock Canyon High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., to discuss the benefits and opportunities afforded through a career in the U.S. Air Force.

Miller presented her career story to members of the school’s volleyball, cheerleading, and soccer teams, sharing her reasons for joining and the positive experiences she has had over her 17 years in service.

“I decided to join the Air Force after not really wanting to go to college but wanting to get out of my hometown and make something of myself,” she said. “The Air Force has provided me with lifelong skills to use after I retire in a couple years, and free education. Not to mention the healthcare to take care of my family.”

Tom Brieske, athletic director at Rock Canyon High School, said the students who attended Miller’s presentation, which is part of a leadership program facilitated by DistrictWON, a U.S. Air Force partner for marketing and local engagement, were attentive to everything Miller shared.

“I thought the message was really good. We have a very high percentage of our seniors who are on a college bound path but the talk opened their eyes to a different option that they may not have known they have,” Brieske said. “I think it is vital to hear all the options that are available to our students as they seek what may be best for them and their families.”

Miller addressed the girls’ questions about military life and highlighted the work-life balance that she and several of her colleagues have experienced.

“You’ll receive exactly the same training, vocational development and promotion opportunities as your male colleagues,” Miller said. “Most Air Force jobs have regular hours, giving you plenty of opportunities to socialize, spend time with your family, play sports and make the most of the extensive fitness and leisure facilities on base. You’ll make friends for life, at work and at play, plus through amazing shared experiences such as supporting peacekeeping and disaster-relief missions.”

The Air Force believes integration and diversity are important, Miller said, and that each woman who joins the service comes from a different background and therefore brings a distinct skillset and a unique perspective to the team.

“The opportunities that exist in the Air Force for women are amazing. You could come in and do an enlistment if you’re not sure about it and come out with an associate degree, many skillsets to use on the outside, lifelong friends, and an experience many of your friends would never be able to get,” Miller told the girls. “And if you want to keep going in your career in the Air Force, you can make your own way. This is your path and nobody can change the trajectory of your career but you!”

From immigrant to the Air Force: Staff Sgt. empowers future female leaders at Moriarty High School

Immigrating to the United States at 11 years old, Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Dayanghirang felt a call to military service in gratitude of everything the country had provided her and her family.

“As a young immigrant from the Philippines at 11 years old, I was grateful to step into this country and experience the many benefits it has offered me over the years: education, healthcare, job opportunities and freedom,” she said. “I wanted to give back to the country by serving and be a part of the many citizens who keep this nation as the land of the free.”

Now a career soldier who has traveled the world, Dayanghirang visits high schools across the country to empower young students, particularly young women, to explore the benefits and opportunities of a career in the U.S. Air Force.

“Having partnerships with schools will help the current challenge of underrepresentation of women in the Air Force by having that direct engagement of women in service with the students,” she said, noting that integration and diversity in the military promotes innovation and productivity through different talents, backgrounds, and experiences.

Dayanghirang recently met with the female student athletes from Moriarty High School in Moriarty, N.M., as part of a leadership initiative facilitated by DistrictWON, a U.S. Air Force partner for marketing and local engagement.

“Having them listen to the recruiter opened a lot of their eyes. It showed them a whole new avenue after graduation besides college or the work force,” said Joseph Anaya, Athletic Director at Moriarty High School. “Staff Sgt. Dayanghirang talked about her own experiences in sports and how it helped with her career choice in the United States Air Force [and it] was very engaging for our student-athletes. She had their attention from the start.”

Dayanghirang shared with the girls that the Air Force is not one-size-fits-all and that there are avenues of interest for every personal and professional goal.

“We offer careers in aviation, medical, cops, firefighters, aircraft mechanics, cyber, intel, linguist, etc. You can even be a plumber in the Air Force. We will provide you the education and training you need for the career you are pursuing for free. While doing so, you could also be traveling around the world,” she said.

According to the 2022 Demographics Profile of the Military Community released by the U.S. Department of Defense, the number of service members in all military branches dropped by 2.7 percent over the previous year. However, the percentage of women increased, with those actively serving in the military rising to 17.5 percent from 17.3 percent the year prior and those in the selected reserve rising from 21.4 percent to 21.6 percent over the same period.

For those interested in the Air Force, Dayanghirang always recommends doing the research.

“Doubts are normal,” she said. “Be comfortable to use resources around you, such as recruiters, current or prior military members, teachers, counselors, friends and family members to ask them questions before making the decision of joining.”