After nearly 10 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Melissa Davis says the experience has made her capable of handling anything that gets thrown at her.

“I initially joined just for school and only wanted to do a four-year contact,” Davis said. “[But] I have stayed as long as I have in the Air Force as it has pushed me so much more than I could ever imagine as a person. I honestly wouldn’t be the person I am today without the Air Force. From a shy and reserved high school girl, to becoming a subject matter expert in my field, a leader, and a follower.”

Davis, who has served as an Air Force Medical Logistics Technician and who is currently an Air National Guard Recruiter for Minnesota, recently met with the girls wrestling team at St. Paul Harding High School in St. Paul, Minn., as part of a leadership program facilitated by DistrictWON, a U.S. Air Force partner for marketing and local engagement. She shared her experiences in the Air Force as well as the overall benefits and opportunities that young women can receive through military service.

“I think the Air National Guard and Air Force as a whole do a fantastic job of bringing you out of your shell,” Davis said. “If you don’t know how to public speak, we will get you the experience and help you become good at it. You may not be the best leader in directing others to do things. We teach you how to be a respectful and effective leader. Or you may have a hard time learning to ask for help when you have too much on your plate. We teach you to learn when to ask for help and let you know you’re not alone. In order to have a strong Air Force, we have to have strong guardsman in every single rank.”

Glenn Meyers, assistant athletic director and head wrestling coach at St. Paul Harding High School, said the Air Force’s partnership with high schools is so important for students, particularly female students, who want to learn about how they can “continue to develop into thoughtful, inquisitive, critical thinking leaders” following graduation.

“The girls expressed a lot of enjoyment and excitement about getting to talk one-on-one with a female member of the service,” Meyers said. “Several of them are exploring the option as a post-secondary career and it was really a joy to watch their eyes light up talking about how they got to speak with a female member of the service who can answer their questions and give insights.”

Davis pointed out the myriad benefits for women who choose to join the Air Force, including college education opportunities, professional career courses, world travel, teamwork building, comradery, and individual growth.

And while Davis acknowledges the constant need for more diversity and integration in today’s military, she sees more women joining the Air Force and is proud to be part of that change.

“In the time I have been in, I have seen a huge rate of women joining,” Davis said. “We have made big strides as women in the military, and I believe that holds perfect representation for having these partnerships with high schools. Young women can see how far we have come.”