Everyone's a defender

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Approximately 20 percent of the Air Force is female. Despite the low percentage, women in the Air Force continue to make a huge impact on the mission.

Security forces may not be the top career field choice for all females, but for Airman 1st Class Alexis Dinger, this is what she chose. The challenge of deployments, grueling technical school and being in a traditionally male dominant career field was what she wanted.

"There's not very many females in the military in general, especially not in this career field, but you just have to exceed the standards and do what the guys do," she said.

During Gunfighter Flag 16-1 at Mountain Home AFB, Dinger, 366th Security Forces Squadron response force leader, and other airmen were given the opportunity to showcase their skills in deployed conflict situations.

Dinger worked under Tech. Sgt. Esther Werstler, 366th SFS flight chief, during the exercise. Werstler helped assist the airmen through the various situations they would face in real-life deployments.

"In Gunfighter Flag 16-1 our whole purpose is to practice those critical elements that we're requiring our personnel to deploy with," said Werstler. "It makes sure that when they're going down range they already know what the critical elements are."

Mounted operation, gathering intelligence, conducting convoys, detecting improvised explosive devices, and providing security for a medical evacuation were a few objectives covered during the exercise.

"It gives us a good understanding of what we are going into, because you never know what is going to happen," said Dinger. "Doing stuff like this is preparing me to go [on a deployment]."

As the exercise progressed to the ending, Dinger would be tested on what they covered throughout the week.

During the final day of the exercise Dinger was given the opportunity to show the 'guys' what she could do behind the wheel of the military-grade humvee.

"I helped out looking for IEDs, any personnel, and vehicles to give our squad leader a head's up, so he could pass it on to the trucks behind us or if the guys in front of us didn't see it," Dinger said.

Dinger explained that the guys she worked with during the exercise weren't who she worked with on a regular basis. However, they "clicked" pretty well and completed the task at hand. Working through the week, Dinger looked to show the 'guys' she could work alongside them without slowing them down--that didn't go unnoticed.

"She's a great troop, she shows high motivation, she knows her job and she excelled in the exercise," said Senior Airman Benedicto Villanueva, Dinger's supervisor.

Although there are not as many females, in either security forces or the Air Force, Dinger talked about how it was nice to work alongside someone like Werstler.

"It's nice to see higher ranking female airmen to go to and see what they have done throughout their career to get to where they are now," Dinger said.

Werstler has been able to share her experiences about deployed locations and things airmen can expect to encounter. By doing so, she unknowingly encourages other airmen to perform to their highest ability.

They worked hard to prove themselves with one thing on their minds.

"You can do it if you put your mind to it," Dinger said.