Highlighting the stories of Military Women from all branches of service, this personal project is born out of the desire to let our nation hear the stories of why women serve, for whom they serve, lessons learned, memories, and to impart leadership advice for the next generation - civilian and military.
Azalee, Portrait, 2017, Tacoma, WA
“Be all that you can be.” -Late 1970’s-1980’s era Army Slogan and Advertisement.
Sometime about 5th or 6th grade, I realized that I wanted something more for myself. I wasn’t sure what that meant or what it was, but I wanted it. By the time I was in 7th-8th grade, I knew I wanted to go to college and my stepdad had told me that he wasn’t paying for it. About this same time, the Army “Be all you can be” commercials were being aired and that resonated with my wanting more. “Be all you can be” was not just a slogan, it inspired me—and still does.
Throughout this same time, there were lots of folks who seemed intent on demonstrating how inadequate I was—classmates with whom I did not fit in and a stepdad who consistently criticized and never praised. Fortunately, school and sports came easily. I was driven to excel, to demonstrate my value, my worth using those activities. I strove to keep pace with anyone who did anything extraordinarily well—I taught Sunday School, held down a job at the library, earned straight A’s, and participated in sports whenever I could. As a result of my efforts and the support of my mom, teachers, supervisors and Congressional representatives, I gained an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Serving in the Army and going to college had become my something more.
Leadership is action, not position. -Chinese Fortune Cookie
I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I arrived at the Academy, but I graduated with a passion for three things—Army, leadership, and operations research (OR). I was in the Army, was learning leadership and would hold OR close for the future. I had been commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer and went to my basic officer course--approximately 200 guys and me. As a platoon leader, I learned that leadership was about taking care of Soldiers, ensuring their personal well-being, professional well-being, training, guidance, education. Truly caring and taking the time to ensure that my Soldiers were trained and resourced as best as I possibly could melded the platoon. Three outstanding sergeants developed that platoon into an extraordinary team that was the only small unit to be commended in our battalion in our Department of the Army Inspector General Nuclear Surety Inspection and External Evaluation. I was hooked. I loved working with great people, taking care of Soldiers and accomplishing tasks together.
While working on staff after finishing a company-level command, I applied for and was accepting into a graduate school program that would allow me to become an Army operations research analyst (ORSA) in Functional Area 49. After I finished school, I worked the enlisted manpower program at the Pentagon. As I worked to advise leadership on how many Soldiers we needed to recruit, train, and promote, I realized that this too was taking care of the Soldiers, albeit by a much different means. Now instead of being in charge of a platoon or a detachment, I was in charge of the numerical health of the entire Army. Now, all Soldiers were my Soldiers and if I made mistakes, they would bear the brunt—it was no different than being a lieutenant; it just had much greater consequences. Once again, I was inspired to be all that I could be. The Army, it seems was my calling.
My entire career has progressed along these lines. I am continually inspired by Soldiers who do extraordinary things, who do more than expected without being asked, who strive and achieve because they can, who achieve more together than each could singularly. Our Soldiers who live by our values, who strive and sacrifice and who are ultimately part of something much bigger than themselves. I recognize that not everything is perfect in our Army, but overwhelmingly there continues to be positive progress. I have been blessed in my career and am immensely grateful to the many leaders, mentors, peers, and Soldiers who have made it so.
Weddings & Elopements
Designed for the unique bride and groom who cherish memories over material and worldly "things" and whose style is above the common trends.
Elopements start at $1,500
Weddings start at $3,000
Two photographers at all times for full weddings. Videographer at additional cost and upon request.
*additional costs, travel, etc can vary
March 2017 will make four years that I’ve been in. My first duty station was at a helicopter squadron in San Diego. Before then, was home in Mobile, Al. I guess you could say I was really involved in high school I was part of the Key Club, Pre-med club, Scholar’s bowl team, softball team and tennis.
I originally was supposed to have went to college (University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB). I got my acceptance letter in the mail. The summer of 2012 after I graduated I thought I was leaving for college but the issue is my mom couldn’t afford it. I received a partial academic scholarship and applied for FASFA and it still wasn’t enough. I tried to apply for community college but missed the deadline for financial aid. So I decided I was going to apply next year in the spring. The Navy came to mind when I received something like junk mail mentioning the Navy. I went to the recruiter office they ask me if I had taken the ASVAB and I so happened took it in high school to get out of class for a few hours and did well. And that’s how I joined the military.
I started of with a few challenges such as my family did not want me to go. They feared the unknown. And being away from home was difficult as well but the only way to overcome those challenges was time.
The main thing that the military taught was independence. Before, I was very sheltered. I come from a small family and everyone was within a ten mile radius of each other. Expanding my horizon and welcoming change.
I cherish it a lot more. While in I have come across all walks of life and out of those people some came to America fighting for opportunity to make something here.
A lesson I want to impart is to keep pushing and that the pain from the challenges you go through is only temporary. And let the difference you make be something that inspires the generation behind them.
When I first joined it originally was for school. Then it became for the sense of pride I gave my family to say I was in the military. Now it’s because I realize that as a woman in the military, even though I work in an administrative job, I would like to think I’m apart of some type of history.
What is my legacy? My legacy, I’m not sure yet I’m still currently working on that.
I don’t want to be remembered for much just that I worked hard and that I made at least one change in somebody’s life.
My name is Tammy McElhaney. I grew up in Lakeland, FL and have been in the USAF for almost 19 years. I have a seven year old daughter, Lilly, and my parents have lived with us the last two assignments. I enjoy working out, remodeling my house, and doing fun activities with the kido.
What shaped your decision to join the military?
I wanted to do more than just work for the almighty dollar. I was in Jr ROTC and Sr ROTC USAF before I went active duty.
When looking back, how did you overcome any challenging problems/difficulties? What did you learn through this process?
I am a sole parent to my daughter. Her father passed away three years ago while I was in command of a rather large unit. I learned that the word “family” applies to more than just blood relations. My relatives, friends, peers, and the people in my unit provided a great deal of support to me and my daughter during this period of time.
What skills do you think the military has given you that you may not have learned anywhere else?
Resiliency and flexibility
How has your experience in the military changed your outlook on being an American?
I was in DC on Sep 11, 2001, witnessing first hand our Nation being attacked instilled an even stronger sense of patriotism and dedication to defending our country.
What would you like to impart upon the new generation of leaders that follow you?
That serving in the armed forces involves dedication, team work, and sacrifice. To serve is a privilege as less than 1% will/can serve in the US military. We need to set the example by being true leaders who take care of their people while ensuring the mission gets done.
Why do you serve? For whom do you serve?
God, Family, County. It is not just a saying but a true reason for many of us that serve. Sometimes we have to sacrifice time with the family to serve our country and that is where faith helps carry us through the hard times.
What do you want your legacy to be?
To leave every assignment knowing I contributed and made a difference. I live by Something Each and Every Day (SEED) to achieve this goal.
How do you want to be remembered?
As a good leader who was fair, hardworking, and took care of her people
Bridals are carefully curated for the bride-to-be who's style and vision for her portraits are beyond the quick snap. I'd love to say that I'm 100% in love with love, but what I'm really in love with is a woman who knows her value, has a vision for herself, and her timelessness.
I was born and raised in Florence, South Carolina. Growing up in a rural area I enjoyed gardening, reading, skating (where I could find a patch of concrete), and spending time with my five siblings. Much of my family worked in the farming industry so I spent a lot of time outdoors.
Following in the footsteps of my sister and cousins, I was heavily involved in Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in high school. In JROTC I learned about the history of the United States Air Force (USAF), the USAF core values, and current affairs shaping our nation.
My JROTC unit participated in various community service events and drill competitions that I really enjoyed.
Four years of JROTC instilled a sense of patriotism or duty to country that transformed me. During my senior year, I was the Cadet Commander of my unit. I enjoyed the challenges of the position and the sense of comradery with my peers. For those reasons and because I needed money for college, I applied for and was awarded a four-year Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to attend college at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina.
At Clemson University, I majored in Electrical Engineering and was enrolled in their ROTC program, Detachment 770. Initially, I struggled academically. I believe this was primarily due to the fact that I didn’t have any prior exposure to the engineering field and I had no family members or acquaintances with experience in my chosen major. A second reason was because I isolated myself from my classmates who were predominantly male.
A great mentor and now really good friend introduced me to Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) while in college. These programs allowed me to interact with other female engineers and develop a support system and network of professional peers that still carries on today. In 1999, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and received my commission in the United States Air Force.
Over the past 17 years on active duty, I’ve held a variety of positions as a Space and Missile Operator, Systems Engineer, Executive Officer and Program Manager. I’ve been very lucky to spend most of my career working in an area that I’m passionate about – Space. My resume includes assignments in Missile Warning, Space Surveillance, Spacelift, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and Missile Defense. Currently, I am assigned at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. In this position, I serve as the Director of Operations for Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation.
The military has afforded me the opportunity to work with a very diverse group of people from all walks of life. It has allowed me to acquire unique problem-solving, organization, leadership and management skills. It has taught me the importance of teamwork and collaboration to resolve some of the toughest issues facing our nation.
By far, the most important skill I’ve learned is the importance of communication. The military has taught me how to not only be a good listener, but how to be a follower when necessary. Most often, military training is dedicated to developing leadership skills, but in many circumstances you can be a good leader by simply respecting the opinion of others and allowing opposing courses of action to be considered. Another important lesson I’ve learned in the military is to never be afraid to challenge the status quo. The current way of doing things is not always the best or most efficient, so don’t be afraid to push your ideas forward.
I am married with 6 children, ranging from 19 to 4 years of age. My two oldest attend college in South Carolina and Florida. My family and I have traveled all over the United States to include living in Colorado, California, Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
Managing a military family can be a very difficult task. For example, my oldest daughter attended 4 different high schools – a different one every year. This was great lesson for her in dealing with challenges. To help her through each transition, I often shared with her my experiences in dealing with challenges in the military.
Through every challenge or obstacle, I tried to remain calm and optimistic with the notion that no matter what happened, I could persevere. It takes drive and determination to succeed in every job, especially while serving in the military. I‘ve learned that you must deal with challenges head on. My experience has been that positive thinking, coupled with positive attitude and actions yields positive results.
To the next generation of leaders that follow in my footsteps, I implore them to always remember the USAF core values - integrity, service, and excellence. Remember these tenets, which are the bedrock of everything we do. Consider them with every action and you can never go astray. In addition, always treat others with respect. If you treat others with respect, for the most part, it will be returned to you. Finally, trust in your leaders, but have the courage to challenge the status quo.
As I start looking towards life after active duty I, like many others before me, consider the legacy that I will leave behind. More than anything, I would like to be remembered as a person who loved God. I want to be remembered as a hard worker and as a strong confident woman who took care of her people. I want to be remembered as a caring and self-less leader; a proud American who served with Honor and Integrity.
I’ve never been more proud to be an American and a member of the Armed Services. The sphere of influence that we have around the world is unmatched. We are a recognized and respected World Power. When I consider the many sacrifices that my brothers and sisters in arms have made to defend our country and protect our democracy, I’m at a loss for words. Being an American Airman is more than just a title, it carries with it a sense of duty, commitment and responsibility that I gladly accept.