AFCLC Outreach Team
Master Sergeant Martha Meza describes herself as an International Airman, just like her male counterparts. Even though, she admits, there have been several occasions where she is the only “female Airman” in the room. Despite the lack of diversity, at times, when it comes to her job in the Air Force, she said, gender has never been an issue.
In fact, MSgt Meza said, being a woman in the Air Force is empowering.
“I remember I was heading into a briefing with the Guatemalan National Security Advisor, Chief of Defense and several other distinguished visitors when I quickly realized that I was the only enlisted woman there,” she said. “The only other women in the entire building were serving food for the briefing. I remember the stares, the glances, and I was so nervous. When the briefing ended, I was applauded”.
Not only was she applauded, but, MSgt Meza used her knowledge and language skills to support the advancement of the USSOUTHCOM Commander’s stated priority of building our partner nations’ military capacity within the AOR.
“It was definitely intimidating at first, being the only woman in the room,” MSgt Meza said, “but, at the end, I was proud because not only was I doing my job, but I was able to persuade another country to adopt our doctrine and utilize our capabilities”.
During her time with the 612th Air Operations Center, she used her language skills in Spanish to brief the Uruguayan Air Force Chief of Staff and Colombian Senior Leaders. MSgt Meza has been able to improve and sustain her Spanish speaking skills over the years as a member of the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Language Enabled Airman Program. The LEAP program employs a two-part education and sustainment system consisting of online language classes eMentor courses and Language Intensive Training Events (LITEs).
As a LEAP participant she said her training and eMentor courses have helped her to excel in the Air Force.
“I served in various immersions in Guatemala and Peru as a subject matter expert for joint projects between the Colombian and Guatemala Air Forces. I developed the first ever intelligence fusion cell in Guatemala and assisted with intelligence analysis techniques,” she said.
In August 2015, MSgt Meza relied on her LEAP experiences and eMentor classes during PANAMAX 2015. The annual U.S. Southern Command multinational exercise focuses on ensuring the security of the Panama Canal. MSgt Meza was highly involved in the joint exercise.
“I worked alongside more than 50 officers from nine partner nations. During my time there, I created a three-language acronym guide to help hurdle any potential language barriers that might negatively impact the exercise”.
As a woman, she describes her experience as groundbreaking. Her involvement in this exercise has the potential to impact regional partner nation Air Forces to better integrate women and enlisted into their institutions and high level military planning efforts.
“Understanding and appreciating the Latin community, enabled me to build those relationships while simultaneously performing my job,” she said, “being a LEAP scholar has made me a better Airman and intel analyst. I’m able to understand the culture and foster relationships with our partner nations”.