BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --
The Alabama National Guard, much like the larger U.S. military as a whole, is a varied organization. Members come from all walks of life, from families where the military is a tradition, as well as those who are the first to serve. However, the popular image of the “military member” in many people’s minds is still a masculine wall of muscle coupled with a thousand-yard stare, in other words, a G.I Joe action figure come to life.
Yet, this is rarely accurate, and often completely misses about 20 percent of the military who belong to an exclusive group: women.
Master Sgt. La’Tonya June, the 117th Intelligence Squadron’s First Sergeant, belongs to that exclusive group. She now holds the distinction of being the first member of the 117th Air Refueling Wing to win the Alabama National Guard Outstanding Woman of the Year Award. June has served with the National Guard for 11 years and is the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 117 IS. She also works as a geospatial analyst in addition to her duties as first sergeant.
June is also an active member in the community. She often contributes to Hoover High School’s Step Program, which helps at-risk students acclimate to the pressures of adolescent life. It is rewarding for her to hear their stories and the trouble that they have had to face in their lives. The students she’s helped still call her to chat about life.
June decided to contribute to Gateway Birmingham, which is Birmingham’s oldest nonprofit organization designed to help families and children in need, after hearing from a fellow airman about her experience there.
“We’ve donated to them and went for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, giving them beds, doing nails and make-up, just hanging out with the kids so that they have someone to come visit them during the holidays so they know they’re not forgotten,” said June.
Girls everywhere should know that there is a place for them in the military, which can sometimes seem like a “boy’s only” club, if they want to work for it, said June.
“Absolutely believe in yourself, and don’t be tainted by what you perceive the world may think of you,” said June. “Just go for it, don’t think too much about it, know your job and do it well.”
At the end of the day, it’s about the work, said June, and if you do the work with everything you have, your gender doesn’t matter.