On May 14, 2008, Ashleigh Wesche ’08 received her commission and bars as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force. I was delighted to witness the commissioning ceremony along with Lieutenant Wesche’s family and friends, and numerous Trinity faculty and staff. I felt so proud of this remarkable Trinity leader as I watched her uniformed Air Force Officer father and mother pin her bars on her shoulders, and then she gave her first salute to both of her military grandfathers who also came in uniform for the occasion.
We’ve all come to know Ashleigh as a wonderful student leader, the SGA President in the past year, a terrific athlete and devoted volleyball player, and an outstanding student who graduated with Trinity’s highest honors — magna cum laude History major, Phi Beta Kappa and recipient of the T Pin as well. But I wanted to know more about the young woman who has chosen a military career. With her customary thoroughness, Ashleigh provided me with these insights to her choices and future career:
Why did you choose military service and how has this shaped you?
Ashleigh: I choose the military for a few reasons. I grew up as an Air Force Officer’s child and loved the life my dad and mom gave me. I grew up in nine states and three countries and know that that lifestyle is really only possible with the military. Also, and more importantly, I think that everyone should do something for their country. The military is not for everyone and there are other ways to serve, it just works best for me. … High standards, dedication, determination, integrity, service leadership and commitment are just a few ideals the military has instilled in me. Part of taking on these values comes from my parents though, they raised me with the same morals that the military teaches.
Where will you be stationed and what will you be doing?
Ashleigh: Right now I only know what the next year looks like. On May 25 I report to ASBC (Aero Space Basic Course) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama for six weeks. It’s basically a crash course lesson in being on active duty. I will be with other ROTC cadets, Officer Training School Cadets, and Air Force Academy Cadets. I graduate from ASBC on July 2 and will then have a few days to travel to San Angelo Texas. I will report to Goodfellow Air Force Base on July 5 and will most likely work in the student Squadron for the first two months doing general administrative work. On September 4 I will start my eight month long intelligence training at the same base. About half way through the training I will find out the exact type of intelligence I will be doing. I graduate on April 8 and will then go to my first long term assignment. I will not find out where that is until about next February or March though.
(Photo of Lt. Wesche on left and other new officers from the Howard University Air Force ROTC Detachment 130 who received their commissions in the Stanley Chapel at the U.S. Armed Forces Home on May 14, 2008)
How long will you serve?
Ashleigh: I have a four year commitment to the Air Force after college and can sign up for a longer commitment after the first four years. The only thing more important than my career is having a family. Right now the plan is to have both, but if it ever gets too difficult, my family will win…
What is your observation about women in the military and how will you hope to advance the appeal of military service for other women?
Ashleigh: It’s illegal to discriminate based on sex in the military and I have no fear of being mistreated or denied access to anything. I know that the military is a “boy’s club” but I am not really worried and usually fit in just fine. Honestly unlike the past years I think that being a woman in the military is almost advantageous for my career. When you only have one or two men officers around compared to the fifty or so males, you stand out. This is good in a competitive environment. Women stand out no matter what, and good women officers can stand out even more and do pretty well… I would like to advance the appeal of military service to women by showing them that you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have a successful career which is traditionally dominated by men, without losing your since of womanhood. I can have a family and be in the military, it gets more complicated when you marry someone else who is in the military because your career paths may diverge as you get further up in the ranks, but it can be done. There is no one way to lead a group of people so you don’t have to get rid of your own feminine personality to be successful or to make your squadron successful.
What is your Trinity major and how has this helped you in preparing you for service?
Ashleigh: Well, I am a history major, so my career field of intelligence directly relates to my degree. I am a firm believer that you cannot understand anything going on in the world today and begin to try and solve the problems, without a deep understanding of how they all started. It’s not enough to understand the conflict today and how it affects the U.S. In order to be successful you have to understand the different people and cultures involved and see the situations from every point of view. My major in history did just that! I am not nearly as smart as I need to be to start tackling these issues but studying history is the right path to prepare for them.
Congratulations, Lieutenant Wesche!
On this Memorial Day weekend, as we salute Lt. Wesche and other Trinity students and recent alumnae who are serving or who have served in the military, let’s also remember the salute all of the alumnae across the generations who have served our nation in the military, civilian as well as uniformed defense and intelligence positions, and through major service organizations like the Red Cross. In a conversation just the other day with Sister Dorothy Beach, SND, Class of 1943, Trinity’s retired librarian, she reminded me that 15 members of the Class of 1943 immediately joined the Navy upon their graduation, including herself — Ensign Beach.
The yearbooks (such as photo above and excerpt below from the Class of 1944 Trinilogue) and alumnae records of those years are full of the stories and records of Trinity Women who served our nation during World War II, and in subsequent generations other graduates also followed in this grand tradition. On this Memorial Day weekend, as we honor all of America’s veterans and those who have given their lives in service to our freedom, let’s remember and salute all Trinity veterans and current military personnel. Thank you for serving our nation and protecting our way of life every day!