Women played a key role in Sheppard's early days

  • Published
  • By Dwight Tuttle, Ph. D.
  • 82nd Training Wing History Office
During World War II, the increased demand for military personnel in the war zones changed the composition of the work force at Sheppard. 

To compensate for the loss of these skilled instructors, the Sheppard Field commander received orders to replace military personnel with qualified civilians.

The shortage of men in the civilian sector, many of whom were already serving in the armed forces, meant that women were recruited to fill the need for aviation mechanics instructors. Young women between the ages of 18 and 25 were selected to attend the aircraft mechanic course along with their male counterparts. Exchanging nail files for wrenches and makeup for grease smudges, they learned how to keep an airplane in top flying condition. 

During the war, Sheppard employed a woman glider maintenance instructor, a first for the Army Air Forces.

According to an article in the Aug. 7, 1942 issue of TEXACTS, Sheppard's original base newspaper, more than mere economic considerations prompted women to go to work for the Air Corps. Even though they could not fly in combat, women wanted to make substantial contributions to America's war effort by "keeping 'em flying."

In addition to the civilian women mechanics, the field got a much-needed boost on Apr. 17, 1943, with the arrival of 46 members of a 50-person contingent of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs). Previously stationed at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., the WAACs were assigned to a variety of support jobs as file clerks, mimeograph operators, stenographers, typists, message carriers, and secretaries, replacing the men who were being shipped overseas to the war.

The unit was later re-designated the 116th Post WAAC Headquarters Company, Army Air Force.