By Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran , 145th Public Affairs
/ Published January 24, 2014
CHARLOTTE, NC -- A normal day in our life might look like this: The alarm clock buzzes. We hit snooze twice and steal another 15 minutes. Grab a cup of coffee, a soda or an energy drink to get us moving and drive to work. As we get into the office, yesterday's work crisis weighs heavily on our mind. We go in and out of meetings, chase emails in our inbox, and start on a project that is due in 48 hours. But for Lt. Col. Barbara Doncaster, this is not how January 11, 2014 would start. Because on this day, she was going to make a difference, make history, in the North Carolina Air National Guard.
Putting on her uniform with the rank of Lt. Col. for the last time, Doncaster arrives at the 145th Airlift Wing to start her day. Later she would say, "That's about all I remember!"
Rain poured, the temperature dropped, lightning struck and thunder rolled. "The only thing missing are the locust," said Col. Quincy N. Huneycutt, vice commander, 145th Airlift Wing.
This did not detour family, friends, generals, other leaders, co-workers and fellow airmen from attending the ceremony where Doncaster's sons, Michael and Andrew, her mother Madeline and Huneycutt had the honor of pinning on an eagle with outstretched wings - the insignia for colonel - as Doncaster achieves the rank of "full bird".
As if that weren't enough, everyone then proceeded to a C-130 hanger where more than 600 airmen waited for a Change of Command ceremony to begin and to witness history being made.
With respect, unit members stand at attention as the ceremony begins. By the order of Brig. Gen. Todd D. Kelly, North Carolina Assistant Adjutant General for Air, Col. Barbara Doncaster assumes command of the 145th Mission Support Group by accepting the guidon from 145th AW commander, Col. Roger E. Williams, Jr, making her the first woman in the history of NCANG to lead the MSG.
Back in 1988 when Doncaster first enlisted into the NCANG, she could only recall one female non-medical officer. The rest were nurses. "I remember when Brig. Gen. Beth Austin, N.C. Army National Guard, was promoted in 2011," said Doncaster. "I was at her ceremony and got to witness the first female in the state achieving the rank of General. I felt like a door once closed just opened."
In the early 1980s you didn't see women working in the mechanical areas of the base. They were in positions such as administrative or medical. They weren't joining to learn firefighting skills. Now you can walk back in the maintenance hangers and see women "up to their elbows" in grease! You see female firefighters, Humvee drivers, pilots and mechanics, military police and intelligence officers.
"I think we have come a long way," stated Doncaster. "You ask me about being the first female Mission Support Group commander. I think it shows other woman there is not a glass ceiling here. Now we see more women coming into leadership positions, and those perceptions are slowly changing."
Doncaster began her Air Force career in 1981 as an Aerospace Control and Warning System Operator at the 102nd Tactical Control Squadron, Rhode Island ANG. In 1984 she entered the active Air Force where she worked in radar operations at Eglin AFB FL, Osan AB Korea and in Contingency Plans at Shaw AFB SC. She joined the 145th AW, NCANG in 1988 where she worked as a Telephone and Equipment Maintenance Craftsman and a Communications-Computer Systems Operator.
In 1991 she received her commission through the Academy of Military Science and served as the 145th Services Operations Officer and 145th Civil Engineering Base Readiness Officer. Doncaster went to the Massachusetts ANG for five years then returned in 2001 to the NCANG as Commander Mission Support Flight. In 2005 she was appointed Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander. She was selected as the full-time Deputy Mission Support commander 145th Services Flight. Later she was appointed Deputy Logistics/J4, Joint Force Headquarters, NCANG. Her last assignment was as 145th MSG Deputy Commander.
Command is a privilege offered to few. The demands are great and the rewards are often unseen. Commanding a group, particularly the 145th Mission Support Group, which is the largest group in the wing with its mix of military airmen and civilian employees, requires unique leadership skills to transition people from a traditional military mindset into domestic support roles and back again. The officer in this position has the collective responsibility of the readiness, health and welfare of well over a thousand airmen in the NCANG.
Standing as 145th MSG commander in front of members of the 145th AW, Doncaster closed the ceremony ardently declaring, "It is truly an honor and a privilege to be the Mission Support group Commander. I am following great men who have come before me and set some high standards. My goal as a leader is to make sure we continue to be relevant. Changes seem to come to us with lightning speed, money is tight, there is downsizing and there are new emerging missions...we need to be ready to embrace the changes. We do that by being well trained and mission ready at the state and national level."
145th AW presses forward by celebrating diversity and recognizing the potential of women as they continue to take charge of key leadership positions. Having personal courage and overcoming obstacles helped pave the way for Doncaster to succeed and solidified her place in woman's history of the NCANG.
Today, Doncaster's unique position makes her a role model and an encouragement for young women to follow their dreams, regardless of difficulties and challenges they may face.