All-female crew brings control to the Oklahoma sky

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cassidy Fisher
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Air traffic control at Vance Air Force Base is defying the norm with an all-female leadership.  

Four women have taken leadership positions without even noticing that they all happen to be the same gender. “You don’t see it as often because there are only so many females in the field,” said Capt. Mackenzie Wamhoff. 

Wamhoff is the airfield operations flight commander, Master Sgt. Bianca Jakeman is chief controller of the radar approach control, and Master Sgts. Katelyn Moore and Kristen Betz are chief controllers of the tower. 

According to Air Force Flight Standards Agency headquarters, the ATC career field in the Air Force is about 17% female as of Aug. 10, 2021.

“In 18 years in ATC I’ve had one female in a leadership position,” said Betz. “So, seeing four of us is unheard of.”

“I’ve seen stats on the male to female ratio,” said Robert Ochs, 71st Operations Support Squadron air traffic control manager. “And given that stat it would be peculiar that you would have in a section of this size all female leadership. Everything runs seamless.”

Ochs is a retired Air Force air traffic controller with 16 years of civilian ATC work under his belt. He has seen many different leaders step into these roles, but he describes this team as more engaged. 

“Across the board they have a higher level of engagement,” said Ochs. “Each of them care about what is going on right now and who is here and what can we do to make things better right now.” 

With Wamhoff overseeing both facilities and residing in the RAPCON with Jakeman, as Betz and Moore operate out of the tower, their different leadership styles play different roles, yet work together. 

“We all get along very well,” said Jakeman. “We have a great relationship, communication skills and everything – it’s really nice.” 

Betz describes the dynamic she and Moore have within the tower. She says they both bring a high-level of knowledge and experience to the job with Moore being very personable, while she brings prior-aviation experience to the facility.

Similarly, Wamhoff and Jakeman bounce ideas off each other to best lead their Airmen.

In addition to leading a team of about 92 Airmen and civilians, Wamhoff, Moore, Betz and Jakeman all lead another team at home -- their children. 

“It helps us handle Airmen and some of the personnel issues. I think there’s an aspect of empathy that comes with being a mom,” said Betz. Each said that being amongst other moms on the same leadership team has helped with communication and understanding.

“To have counterparts that also have young children, it’s nice and I think that’s a better connection for us because we understand one another,” said Jakeman. “We all have empathy for one another and find that balance with our Airmen.” 

Growing up in a male-dominated career field, this team exemplifies why representation is important.

“I want my daughter or our female Airmen or whomever to know that they can do anything that they want to do. And being female shouldn’t be a limiting factor. It’s just one thing that makes you unique,” said Moore.