Tech. Sgt. Melissa Davis has spent the last 10 years serving in the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserves, and Air National Guard and describes herself as an “all-around resource” for individuals interested in an Air Force career.

“This experience has given me the knowledge and capability to be adaptable to anything that is thrown at me. 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’s pushed me so much more then 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 is currently an Air National Guard Recruiter for Minnesota, recently met with female students at White Bear Lake Area High School in White Bear Lake, 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.”

Davis said that many of the stereotypes that she has fielded fall in line with people thinking that military service is masculine with no room for individuality.

“Honestly, I think that stereotype comes from people who think the uniform is so masculine and makes the woman masculine,” she said. “Yes, we do wear the uniform but that doesn’t take away our individual identity. There are all different types of personalities in women that are valuable assets that the Air Force has learned from.”

And while Davis acknowledges the constant need for more diversity and integration in today’s military, she does not believe there is a current challenge of underrepresentation of women in the Air Force and is proud to be a 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.”

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.

“Making a difference in history under the Air Force [is crucial] to show how a strong military includes women,” Davis said. “This is just the beginning for us women representing what we can do and bring to the table with our fellow men.”