“It’s a month for me to ponder on all accomplishments and setbacks that women have had. I think it’s a great time to reflect on the work that still needs to be done, while also celebrating the many inspiring women leaders that I look up to.”
March is Women’s History Month. I’ve asked women from the Wyoming National Guard, both Army and Air, to share a little bit about their journey in the military and what this month’s observance means to them. I ended with a few questions to portray the human side of the women who serve our country.
After a break-up with her boyfriend and a phone call from an Army recruiter, she decided to join the military. However, it wasn’t that easy. She originally wanted to be that rough and tough soldier, jumping out of helicopters, being part of the action. She thought it would be in her best interest to call her father for advice before making any decisions. Hondel’s father worked at the Air Guard. He said, “Oh no, you need to come and talk to the recruiters here.” Hondel followed her father’s advice and the rest is history.
SMSgt Denise Hondel joined the Air National Guard on July 9, 1994. Hondel is a State Personnel Superintendent for the 153rd Airlift Wing, at Joint Force Headquarters here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As a Personnelist, she counsels airmen on their career goals, advises/mentors on things like promotions, training programs, and job specialties. She has earned many prestigious awards and decorations throughout her military career. Check out her bio here. Most recently, she was named 2019 Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Quarter and went on to be selected as Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year. She is the only female in her family that’s served in the military.
It’s a month for me to ponder on all the accomplishments and setbacks that women have had. I think it’s a great time to reflect on the work that still needs to be done while also celebrating the many inspiring women leaders that I look up to. A time for us to recognize and salute women’s contributions. I also wanted to point out that only 20% of the Air Force are women and that’s across the active duty, guard, and reserve. So if you take the percentage of how many people serve in the military, which is less than 1%, so women make up a very small number. You hear talks of gender inequality and how it is a major hurdle, however, I think we are moving in the right direction. We now have women who are going to Ranger school and they’re graduating at the top of their class.
What should every woman try at least once in their life?
Jumping out of an airplane, I have never done it, but I think I want to someday.
Who is your hero? Wonder Woman
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I take an adult tap dancing class. My niece Emily is actually in my class this year.
What has been your favorite part of serving?
I want to start with my least favorite. When I joined the military, I went into Supply and then moved into Traffic Management. As soon as 9/11 began, that put me in the bucket of sending people out the door for deployments. Even though I didn’t send anybody out the door that I worked closely with, the guard is such a big family, I cried every time we would send planeloads of Airmen out. The best time is when those Airmen come home. You can see them reunite with their families.
Throughout my career, I’ve had three deployments, two of them to Afghanistan. During my first deployment, in 2007, I went with Operations as their (CSS) Commander’s Support Staff so I got to experience flying in the C-130 there and back. When we came home, I had the privilege of holding the American flag atop the C-130, as we taxied into Cheyenne. My mom, husband, and kids were all there, taking pictures of the airplane with the American flag. They didn’t even know that was me holding the flag until I got off the plane. For me, that’s been the best part.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Never give up. Set your mind to something and see it through to the end.
What is your favorite “Pump You Up” song? “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
What is your greatest indulgence?
Sitting on the beach, preferably somewhere tropical. But, my all-time favorite is when I get to visit my dad. He has a beach house in Ocean View, Delaware. The best part about visiting is that my dad gets up, makes coffee, and makes breakfast, and packs the lunches. Then we jump in the truck and head off to the beach. I can just throw some sunscreen on and rub my toes in the sand, and not have a care in the world.