I am a woman, wife, and mother who served; Here is a little of my Air Force story

  • Published
  • By by retired Tech.Sgt. Daylena Ricks
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

When asked about my Air Force career, I always say, through a huge smile, that it was the time of my life. I was afforded the opportunity to have my hobby as a career for twenty-plus years and be of service to my country. I entered the Air Force as a photographer but assumed many job titles and positions over those years.

Among many other positions, one of the most rewarding was a special duty assignment as a forensic photographer for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), now the Defense POW Accounting Agency (DPAA). In this role, I was a forensic photographer who assisted teams in excavating and recovering unaccounted DoD personnel who went missing during our nation’s past wars and conflicts. Finding the honorable remains of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and bringing them home to their families, allowing them to receive closure, and then being part of the repatriation ceremony, was surreal and humbling.

I deployed many times to locations like Africa, Poland, Iraq, Thailand, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, where I captured boots-on-the-ground, outside-the-wire stories of heroes, their accomplishments, and the humanitarian and historical aspects of our nation’s efforts.

Being a woman in the ‘field’ or ‘outside-the-wire’ presented challenges, but I found most to be opportunities. An example was when I was deployed to Afghanistan as a combat photographer and needed to be forward deployed, however, the location could not accommodate women. I voiced my concern and solution to leadership to ensure female service women after me were accommodated. Amelia Earhart eloquently said, “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.”

My last position before I retired was managing a Public Affairs Office, less glamorous than traveling around the world taking photos and writing stories, but so important as I was able to create opportunities, lead Airmen and help them grow, and assist them in seeing and reaching
their potential.

Since retiring in 2018, I returned to school and earned my doctorate in psychology, specializing in educational leadership. I served as a higher education mentor for the University of Arizona and an advisor and a board member for the AF’s Fortify the Force Initiative Team (FFIT), responsible for advocating and building resiliency, human skills training, and enrichment policy/programs.

Most currently, I am Vice President of Charitable Affairs and Scholarships chair for the Beale Spouses Club and a Wheatland Charter Academy Governance Council member. I substitute in the local school districts and volunteer at the Beale Thrift Shop in my free time. I did my hobby as a fulfilling career for 20 years, following my passions, learning, helping people, and serving my country. I have since been able to find other meaningful ways to serve and give back to others.