Female mechanic, witness to changes in attitude

Story by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Tech. Sgt. Patricia Nasby of the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from the 123rd Airlift Wing, Louisville, Kentucky works on the propeller of a C-130, October 13, 2014 at the base . Nasby is the only full time woman mechanic in the shop and has been a member of the Wing for 34 years. She plans to retire in February 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Tearing down the engine of a C-130H, inspecting its parts, then re-assembling again is all in a day’s work for Tech. Sgt. Patricia Nasby, an aircraft engine mechanic for the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from Louisville, Kentucky.

Preparing for retirement in February 2015 after 34 years of service as a member of the 123rd Airlift Wing here, Nasby took some time to reflect on what got her to this point in life, those who helped her along the way, and what her next chapter will be.

Growing up with a heavy equipment operator father and six brothers in Indiana, Nasby always had the idea of working with machinery in some capacity, but kept getting pushed aside to other chores due to her being a woman.

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Tech. Sgt Patricia Nasby of the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from the 123rd Airlift Wing, Louisville, Kentucky examines the engine of a C-130, October 13, 2014 at the base. Nasby has been a mechanic in the Wing for 34 years and plans to retire soon. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

“I signed up to take automotive class in high school (after dropping out of typing class) and was pulled aside only to be told that I shouldn’t do this,” Nasby explained. “The school told me that I would be taking away a job from a man who needed to support his family.”

Echoing the school’s sentiment was Nasby’s mother who was also not in favor of the hands on work that the, now high school graduate, so desired.

“I had wanted to go into the Air Force right out of high school,” Nasby explained. “But my mom talked me out of it. This was a time when women were just starting to take on non-traditional roles in the work place. I had known for a long time that I wanted to be a part of the Air Force, but I followed my mom’s advice instead.”

After going the traditional route of marriage and starting a family, Nasby made the choice to follow her dream of entering the service; five years later than what she had originally planned.

“Although I faced work place challenges here, I truly found my calling when I began working on the afterburners of the F4s,” said the mechanic. “It was great to be able to work with my hands alongside others doing the same thing.”

As the only woman working in the male-dominated maintenance area, work place challenges came right away.

“I was assigned to a very tough sergeant when I first got here,” said Nasby. “I think the intent was for him to intimidate me and see how long I would stay. When he saw that I could really do the work, and enjoyed it, he became someone who was glad to have me on his team.”

Changes in attitude came along in time as well as new personnel and aircraft. During her years in the maintenance area, two other female Airmen came and went and the wing transitioned from the F4s to the C-130s.

“Culture in the workplace is so different now than it was when I came into it,” explained Nasby. “Women have taken on much more non-traditional roles in the military and in other jobs. There are many opportunities now that didn’t exist then. More women are deploying and working in overseas environments.”

Indeed the culture change has allowed Nasby to see many parts of the world as she traveled aboard a C-130 to its various destinations. She has deployed to Germany and twice to Afghanistan. But her favorite trip was to the Philippines when the older model C-130s were sold to the country and needed to be delivered.

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Tech. Sgt. Patricia Nasby of the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from the 123rd Airlift Wing, Louisville, Kentucky works as an aircraft engine mechanic at the base . Here, she prepares the tools she will need to repair a C-130. Nasby is the only fulltime woman mechanic in the shop and has been a member of the Wing for 34 years. She plans to retire in February 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

“We ended up landing in so many different places along the way that weren’t planned, it felt like a world tour,” reflected Nasby. “On the return trip on a commercial flight, we had an unexpected layover in Hawaii. It was great!”

Seeing the world and learning the ins and outs of new aircraft have filled Nasby’s days on the job, but outside of the Air Guard, she has been busy as well. The mother of two, grandmother of three and great-grandmother of three, the mechanic plans to hang up her wrench and spend time with her family.

“My mom passed away just before I entered basic training so I have used my extended family a lot to help with my kids,” she explained. “I missed a lot of birthdays and special events.

“But I think my family is very proud of me and of my accomplishments,” said a slightly teary eyed Nasby. “I have worked with really great people here and have great memories, but it’s time to leave this behind and be a grandma.”

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