by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury
460th Space Wing Public Affairs
3/27/2014 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.- -- From
becoming the first military woman in space to commanding a Numbered Air
Force, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, former 14th Air Force, Air Force Space
Command, Joint Functional Component Command for Space and U.S. Strategic
Command commander, revealed the secrets of her success to the men and
women of Buckley Air Force Base during a Women's History Month dessert
social March 21.
During the social she addressed reaching for opportunities, the
importance of having a positive attitude and the power of women
believing in themselves.
"This is my favorite kind of speech to give," Helms said. "It gives me a
chance to talk to other women and give you some good advice. Women's
History Month is a chance to reflect on the past, along with a chance to
inspire people who are going to be making history in the future."
Helms' father was a Vietnam War helicopter pilot who she credits as her
biggest inspiration in her decision to join the military. By the time
she was applying to college, Congress changed the law to allow women to
apply to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"I wanted to be in the Air Force just like my dad for as long as I could
remember," Helms said. "It was one of the few places in the 70s you
could get equal work for equal pay."
Helms is amazed by the many opportunities that have become open to women
within the past few decades, saying there is nothing women can't
"When I got out of the astronaut corps, it was wonderful to see how
broadly the military had become integrated," Helms remembered. "By then
we had female Thunderbird pilots, female fighter pilots... there really
isn't a job that isn't fully integrated. It's wonderful to see how the
military embraced that and valued the diversity of both genders."
Helms continued her education at Stanford University after graduating
from the U.S. Air Force Academy, where she met her hero and role model,
Sally Ride, the first woman in space.
"When she spoke, she was super normal; was the thing that astounded me,"
Helms, who has performed the longest space walk for nearly 9 hours,
said. "She was just an ordinary person in an extraordinary circumstance.
Heroes are who you want them to be. They're not necessarily what the
media or pop culture puts in front of you. Meeting her made me realize
that's she's just a human being. That's when I think I realized what was
Helms' mother and father made sure she and her sisters know they could
accomplish anything, refusing to set up boundaries because they were
female. Speaking highly of the strong people that pushed her to be
everything she is today, she remembers how important it is to be a great
role model, especially to a young child.
"Whether you know it or not, you have no idea the sheer influence you
can have on someone," Helms stressed. "Your impact on this world can be
very surprising. You never know how something you say is going to end up
resonating and sticking with the people. Remember that it takes 10
positive comments to balance out one negative."
Helms, a flight engineer before becoming an astronaut, stressed the
importance of loving what you do and keeping a positive attitude.
"If you do something you really enjoy and have a passion for it, you're
going to be really good at it," Helms said. "The power of your dreams
and the power of your goals and commitments is what really end up
creating those opportunities.
"Part of it is luck, part of it is timing, but part of it is being
ready," Helms said. "Set yourself up for when those opportunities reveal
themselves," she said.