Saluting Our Service Members: Military Spotlight

By The Major Brent Taylor Foundation

Patricia Refsdal

Observe, review F-4 components, 2Lt Patricia Mankowski

By Ann Park

Patricia (Pat) Refsdal of North Ogden retired 17 years ago with the rank of Colonel after 30 years in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve. She spent her career in aircraft maintenance.

Pat’s journey with the United States Air Force began when Pat was a senior in high school. The Air Force made a recruiting visit to the school and she talked to them. She checked out the ROTC at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. In the spring of 1971, most ROTC units were not authorized to accept women into the program. But in August that same year, she got a call from them announcing that they had just been approved to accept female applicants. In September of her freshman year, when Pat entered the program, there were seven women included. Of the seven, Pat was the only one who graduated and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in June of 1975.

1Lt Patricia Refsdal

Pat had a strong interest in aviation. She had been a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol and had soloed as a student pilot. There were no female pilots in the Air Force until 1977, so Pat decided to pursue becoming an aircraft maintenance officer. In November of 1975 she went to tech school at Chanute AFB in Illinois, where she completed six months of school to learn the technical aspects of her trade.

Over time, many male-dominated fields have opened up to women. Pat was part of the trailblazing effort to help women enter the field of aircraft maintenance, become pilots, and have access to many senior roles in the military which had traditionally been filled by men.

“My first assignment after tech school was here at Hill Air Force Base,” Pat recalls. She was one of the first female aircraft maintenance officers in the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, one of three female officers in the wing. This is where she met her husband, Eric, also an eight-year Air Force veteran.

What was it like to be one of the first female officers? It was hard at times. “The team knew I was coming, and they threatened the unit members that if they didn’t achieve unit performance standards, they’d have to work with the first female officer.”

Awaiting retirement at the Pentagon, June 2005

It was challenging for Pat to break in, and she knew that dedication and perseverance were needed to make sure she was getting the job done. Having just completed school, she worked closely with those who had been doing the job longer, knowing that she still needed to gain the technical expertise necessary to keep the unit aircraft in the air. Pat says, “I had to work hard to gain their respect and fully take on that leadership role.”

Pat began her career by helping to transition the F-4s to Hill AFB, then help the 388 TFW transition to the F-16s in the late 70s.

By the end of her career, she was working at the Pentagon and was asked to deploy to the Middle East as A4 Director Forward, Director of Maintenance, Supply, Transportation, and Munitions for Air Force Central Command, which was the Air Force component of US Central Command, supporting IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM. We are honored to have Pat as a resident of North Ogden, and we thank her for her long and exemplary service.

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