Updated: Mar 7, 2022
Y'all, I can't believe I was able to serve in the United States Air Force for 30 years...three whole decades. On a whim and quite frankly, out of desperation to do something different, I left Kokomo, Indiana for Basic Military Training on August 4th, 1991, and officially retired on September 1st, 2021.
I was stationed at 10 military bases, deployed five times (one of them was living and working in the jungles of Vietnam for 3 months), went on countless temporary duty assignments, had a plethora of jobs, held one of the most coveted enlisted roles as Command Chief Master Sergeant, got married to my husband Doctor and Retired Chief Master Sergeant Dominic Hemingway, and had our amazing son Andrew Hemingway who is now 11.
The first 10 years of my career were a BIG party! Now, don't get it twisted, I was a pretty good medical technician, but I was always up for a good time! Me and my girlfriends would start partying on Friday, shop all day on Saturday for the right outfits, and then party all night on Saturday. And with all the partying, drinking, smoking, and eating late at night, my weight started fluctuating from 140 to 180 pounds. I was definitely not taking care of myself like I needed to...and I found out I had high blood pressure when I woke up one morning with busted blood vessels in my eyes, seeing stars, and a major headache. And top it all off, I always seemed to fall for the wrong dudes (uggghhh).
The next 10 years are where I started to see my life and my career take a MAJOR shift. I stopped partying so much (lol), I was deploying all over the world as an Independent Duty Medical Technician, got married to my soulmate Dominic, oversaw 70 medical technicians, got selected as a First Sergeant, and had our son Andrew. I was doing well on many accounts, but I dealt with the emotional impacts of infertility, high-risk pregnancy scares, emergency C-section due to preeclampsia, postpartum depression, stagnation in promotion (took me forever to make Staff Sergeant and forever to make Senior Master Sergeant), traumatic situations while I was serving as a First Sergeant, and experienced so much stress and loneliness from Dominic's back-to-back deployments in dangerous locations.
In my last 10 years, I pushed through these difficult times and I achieved the highest enlisted rank of Chief Master Sergeant. But without a warning, I was IMMEDIATELY rejected and minimized by senior leaders I trusted. I was viewed as a threat…was it because I was a woman, was it because I was a black woman? I started doubting and beating myself up. Still have zero clue why this happened to me…I contemplated retiring, but eventually, the situation resolved. Six months later, I was assigned as the Medical Group Superintendent and I left for a six-month deployment…the first time I deployed since Andrew was born. It was absolutely heart-wrenching and the deployment took a physical and mental toll on me. I injured my knee, sent Airmen home early for failure to perform duties, and was scared to death of impending missile attacks on our base from the Syrian crisis.
When I returned, I was selected as the Command Chief Master Sergeant at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. I went by myself because Dominic was retiring and Andrew was still in school. Again, I was separated from them for 6 months. For 2 ½ years, I lead in a predominately male environment, in one of the COLDEST bases in the Air Force (did I mention that I do not like cold), through the onset of the most unprecedented pandemics, during the racial and social strife’s, and during significant base mission changes. I was mocked, disrespected, and scrutinized to the nth degree.
HOW DID I MAKE IT? WITH MY MIND AND BODY INTACT?
We’ll first, through God’s grace and mercy…and secondly by keeping a strategic positive mindset. Through these difficulties, I managed to pull myself out of these dark holes.
Out of a traumatic situation, while I was stationed at Luke Air Force Base, I started using the word “SLAY” as my hashtag and then it morphed into an acronym describing the leadership philosophies that resonated with me the most. Yes, you’ve heard Beyonce repeat this word over and over again in her song “Formation.” Now, I’m speaking to the many challenges women face in their careers and coaching and mentoring women to #SLAY their way to their desired success. According to the urban dictionary, the word “SLAY” means “to be on point or impress greatly; the ability to dream it, work hard and grind ‘till you own it; to kill it, to dominate it and to nail it.” Women have unique and different experiences. The representation of women in the workplaces has improved, but progress has been uneven. And as this pandemic continues, women are increasingly burning out and sacrificing so much which is affecting their health, career, relationships, or happiness. My aim is to share my stories and knowledge to energize, empower, and enable “SLAY Queens” to authentically make an impact in their personal and professional lives. #SLAY