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NEWS | March 31, 2021

A Long Legacy of Service

By Staff Sgt. Tarelle Walker U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs

Sometimes the gift of legacy is passed on through families in the form of money or material items, but other times it manifests as knowledge, wisdom or even through military service. The latter is the case for one Airman currently deployed here at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

Major Courtney Barnett, deployed as the U.S. Air Forces Central’s Directorate of Operations Chief of Command and Control/Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, recently described the long lineage of women in her family who have served and continue to serve in the military.

“From a very young age I decided I wanted to do what my mom did, so I followed in her footsteps.” said Barnett, who is permanently assigned as the Assistant Director of Operations at the 805th Combat Training Squadron, also known as the Shadow Operations Center-Nellis at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Barnett’s grandmother, Norma Glave, did administrative personnel work in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. It was her example that sparked several women in her family to follow her path by serving in various branches of the military.

“How many people can say their grandmother was a Marine? It was that pride point that showed the women in our family they really could do anything,” Barnett said. “To say she was proud of her service is really an understatement. She, figuratively, wore her uniform until she passed away.”

As a teenager, Barnett was constantly surrounded by evidence of what could be accomplished by women serving in the military, despite the barriers that existed at that time.

“My mother, Donna Rosa, served as a services officer for 27 years, and I got to see her do some pretty amazing things that women weren’t given the opportunity to do at that point in time,” Barnett said.  “Early in her career, my mom was the youngest squadron commander serving in the Air Force at that time. Later in her career, she was the first female group commander at Misawa Air Base, Japan.” 

In addition to her mother, Barnett’s aunt and step-mother also served in the Air Force.

“My mom’s youngest sister was a C-5 maintainer and retired as a First Sergeant. My step-mother worked as a manpower officer,” she explained.

Barnett and her sister, who served as a radiologist in the Army, literally followed in their mother’s footsteps, each wearing an old pair of their mother’s boots during training when they decided to join their respective military branch, and they were not the only two women in the current generation of their family to make a commitment to serve.

“It’s fun to say that we cover all the branches. Like I said, my grandmother was a Marine, and for my generation, my cousin and her wife were in the Navy, my sister and sister-in-law were in the Army, and, of course, I’m in the Air Force,” Barnett said.

The women in her family have also filled various military career roles ranging from engineering to aircraft maintenance and have been able to turn to each other for advice along the way.

“Luckily my mom is still here, and so if I do have a struggle with something or if I’m proud of something, I’ve got someone to share that with and she had the same thing,” Barnett said. “It’s that legacy of not only being able to pass on the struggles you have and how to navigate through them, but also the pride you have in the service wearing the uniform.”

During her 15 years of service, Maj. Barnett has gleaned her own wisdom and experience as well as certain hopes for what she would like to see change in tomorrow’s military.

“We need to progress to where these aren’t unique stories anymore,” Barnett said. “You know when you walk into a room and you’re trying to see if you’re the only one in there? I hope our Air Force, and our military in general, gets away from anyone feeling like they need to do that when they walk into a room. I want Airmen to see themselves represented in all leadership positions.

“Don’t let other people’s opinions of you measure how you progress. Your performance is going to speak louder than anyone’s opinions.” Barnett added.