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JB Charleston Gen. Paul Selva
Ricki Selva, wife of Gen. Paul Selva, Air Mobility Command commander, discusses options for home-schooled children and their participation in local school sports during a briefing at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Feb. 13, 2013, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Mrs. Selva, a graduate of the first female class of the Air Force Academy, leads Mobility Airmen and their families alongside General Selva. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
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First female AF Academy graduate continues to lead

Posted 3/29/2013   Updated 3/29/2013 Email story   Print story


by Ken Wright
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

3/29/2013 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- The first 157 young women reported to the U.S. Air Force Academy June 26, 1976, following President Gerald Ford's authorization allowing women to enter military academies.

One of those women who marched up the Air Force Academy's legendary "Bring Me Men" ramp that day was Ricki Smith Selva, now wife of Gen. Paul Selva, Air Mobility Command commander.

"I think I have to speak for every single person who has entered a service academy, or basic training, when I say that day was traumatic," Mrs. Selva said. "It was profound, but at that moment I did not have an awareness of it being an historic event."

Mrs. Selva said it took decades to appreciate the significance of being a part of that first graduating class with women cadets.

Four challenging years at the Academy proved to be excellent preparation for the rigors of working in the traditionally male dominated field of Aircraft Maintenance.

"Which was a culture where a young woman constantly had to prove herself," Mrs. Selva said. "We should all be judged upon our merit without having to go through an extra step to make sure people understand we are tough and can make decisions without emotions, and we can be a leader on the flightline or anywhere else."

Despite those early difficulties, Selva said she credits many people for her growth as an officer during a period of great change. "My greatest challenge was to learn as much as I could, as fast as I could," she said. "It wasn't just my new job, although that was a big part of it. There was on-the-job-training with senior NCOs, and that was a tremendous learning experience."

General Selva said he learned a lot of lessons in leadership from his wife after they graduated from the academy in 1980.

"I watched her during the first few months we were married, working with a group of men that grew to respect her as an officer because she had high standards and she demanded those standards of her Airmen," he said. "When we all set high standards and demand them not just of ourselves, but of each other, that demand, that momentum makes our organization better. That is something we can't compromise. I learned that early on from watching her."

The success of Mrs. Selva and her female classmates and all the women before them helped pave the way not just for future generations of women who wanted to attend military academies, but also proved they could serve in positions once thought beyond a female's ability.

Mrs. Selva continues to lead alongside her husband to all Airmen across the Mobility Air Forces, with a particular interest in supporting Airmen and their families.

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