Voices of the VaANG: Senior Airman Gabrielle Yates

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham
  • 192nd Wing

“It could just be the way I grew up. My mom is a single mom, and I tell you, the woman can do anything she wants. She literally learned how to tile our living room floor because she didn’t want to pay someone to do it. She re-shingled the roof, she repaved the driveway. She always said ‘why would I pay someone one to do it when I can do it myself?’ The way I grew up, you can do what you want so long as you’re willing to put in the effort to do it.

I don’t necessarily think ammo is a man’s job—I haven’t had any physical issues doing the job. I don’t think it’s very hard for somebody who is in decent shape to do; it’s nothing crazy. If about not being used to using tools, I think it’s kind of a learning curve but I’ve plenty of men who don’t know how to use a ratchet strap. I feel like a lot of it is about going outside your comfort zone, but a lot of it is this stigma that ammo isn’t a woman’s thing.

Being able to move into K9 work is what really interested me [in the Guard]. I was really looking into security forces because I train dogs for a living. Right now, I’m contracted to train Labradoodles (a little bit different). I have three puppies at a time and most of them are emotional support and therapy dogs. I’m just happy to be involved in the industry; it’s a blessing to help people who need [therapy] dogs. 

The more I tried looking into K9 handling for an agency rather than privately, I realized it’s such a male-dominated field. Here [in my hometown], there’s one female K9 handler and she’s the first. It’s so hard for women to get their foot in the door at all. The more I looked at it, it didn’t sound worth it to me. I’d rather do what I’ve got to do and go to school. Once I’m almost finished with my degree, I can get my own dog and start certifying that way.   

The motto for my life has been ‘you’re not going to outwork me for something I want.’ If I want it, I will outwork you all day, every day, because it gets me to where I want to be. I put in the work, but my unit has also done so much for me. My shop chief has more than taken care of me when it comes to writing awards packages, but through a lot of personal stuff that happened this year. 

I was on orders when I found out my mom had breast cancer. The first thing my supervision did was fill up my gas tank and tell me to go home. I’m also having surgery soon and everyone has been asking if there’s anything I need to help out. It’s what you make it but if you build the bonds and do the work, your unit will take care of you tenfold.” —Senior Airman Gabrielle Yates, 192nd Maintenance Squadron munitions systems journeyman