A female member of the 139th Airlift Wing is making history this Memorial Day.
Alicia Sobotka was promoted to senior master sergeant within quality assurance a month ago. She’s the first woman to hold the rank for the wing’s maintenance group.
Sobotka downplays the significance of her gender in her new role, however.
“I don’t think being a female really had a lot to do with it,” Sobotka said. “It was just putting in the time and making sure I was doing what I needed to be doing.”
Her relationship with Memorial Day began at an early age.
“My grandpa was a member of the (American) Legion, so of course he got me involved,” Sobotka said. “A lot of times (we’d) go on Memorial Day and do the services at the cemeteries around my local community.”
On the wall of the desk in her office a sign reads “The first 4 days after a weekend are the hardest.”
The sign can be interpreted a couple different ways: Either the weekend is hard to overcome or it’s advice to know what you’re up against on Monday.
Sobotka began her service at the 139th in 2001, and at that time she was planning on becoming a nurse. However, things changed.
“For me, I was more excited about aircraft maintenance than I was about nursing, so I decided to stay,” Sobotka said.
Sometimes Sobotka is the third set of eyes to review mechanics for the 139th. The wing’s C-130 Hercules was originally designed and built by Lockheed in 1956. It’s been used for a wide variety of operations including troop transport, aerial refueling and also as a gunship.
“We can haul 45,000 pounds of cargo (or) 64 paratroopers (or) 94 troops, so not only do we haul cargo, but we can also haul people,” Sobotka said. “We can set up litters (stretchers) for medevacs and stuff like that also, so the C-130 is very versatile.”
When walking around the C-130, she can explain what engine specifically starts the aircraft. Even when seats have been pulled out of the aircraft during an ISO inspection, she can tell the difference between each one, based on tiny distinctions that don’t appear to the untrained eye.
“Basically, we’re the eyes and the ears of the commander, so that he has a good idea of what is going on in his maintenance group,” Sobotka said.
Sobotka is performing a role that to this point has only been done by male counterparts, and even though she doesn’t see herself as a trailblazer, she did offer one word of advice for girls who also enjoy taking things apart.
“Dedication. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it,” Sobotka said. “Keep the determination and just try, really, that’s the biggest thing.”
This Memorial Day, Sobotka plans to spend time with family and remember the sacrifices other military members have made.