Back to News Front

Woman in STEM

62d AW civilian receives certificate of service for 40-year dedication

U.S. Air Force Col. David Morales, 62d Airlift Wing deputy commander, presents Pamela Best, electronic mechanic with the 62d Maintenance Squadron, with a certificate of service at JBLM, July 26, 2023. Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Kylee Tyus

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD -  In 1983, the year of Super Mario Bros. debut and the release of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi, and the first American woman making history by traveling to space; in Spencer, Iowa, Pamela Best, made the honorable decision to join the United States Air Force as an Avionic Inertial RADAR Navigation specialist.

Now in 2023, with four decades of experience, Best has never lost sight of how it all started. July 26, 2023, U.S. Air Force Col. David Morales, 62d Airlift Wing deputy commander, presented Best with a 40-year certificate of service to commemorate her service to the Air Force.

After basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and technical school at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Best was sent to Norton Air Force Base, San Bernadino, California, where she would work on the C-141B Starlifter. Her squadron at the time had around 500 personnel. Only five of them, including Best, were female.

"I wanted to learn how to do the job as well as the people who did it before me," said Best, now an electronic mechanic with the 62d Maintenance Squadron. "I wanted to know as much as I could."

Upon her arrival at her first duty station, she hit the ground running. She graduated from the Basic Electronics Development Course and the Career Development Course with honors, and added several accolades to her name: becoming the 63rd Air Maintenance Squadron Outstanding Maintenance Airman of the Month, 63rd Military Airlift Wing Maintenance Airman of the Month, the 63rd MAW Maintenance Airman of the Quarter, the 63rd MAW Airman Maintenance Technician of the Year, and a distinguished graduate of the NCO preparatory course.

"Performing in-shop maintenance was both challenging and rewarding," said Best. "Thanks to the patience of my trainers, I was able to perform tasks I never thought I would be capable of."

Three years after her first assignment she met her husband, Norman Best, who was serving in the Air Force as a communications and navigation technician. During the reduction in force that happened throughout the 1980's and before Best's first contract with the Air Force came to an end, she made the decision to separate from the active-duty Air Force to focus on her family. She continued her time at NAFB as an Air Reserve technician. 

Best continued in the Avionic Inertial RADAR Navigation Systems career field until it was converted to the Guidance and Control career field. Her added duties included being the NCOIC of the 445th Weight Management Program and overseeing the on-the-job training program for her duty section. Best recalls this period of her life and the tough decisions that she and her husband had to make.

"He was deployed during (Operation) Desert Shield while I was pregnant with our second child," said Best. "Knowing we were both subject to deployment and with no family close by, we made the decision for my transfer from an Air Reserve technician to a civil servant."

According to Best, after she saw that NAFB was placed on the closure list under the base realignment and closure process, she was given the opportunity to transfer to JBLM, Washington, and moved to the city of Graham with her two children. Her husband followed suit three months later when the C-130 unit he worked with disbanded. She describes her time with the 62d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron as one of the most rewarding times of her career.

"Besides performing troubleshooting and repair of the Communication and Navigation systems, I (have) worked with amazing technicians," said Best. "They trained me on performing aircraft launch and recovery, towing, refueling, defueling, engine runs, and numerous other tasks in support of the mission."

According to Best, she wouldn't be where she is today without her brother, Tom Hanson, encouraging her to not only join the Air Force, but to volunteer for a more technical position than what was expected of her at the time.

"My brother was in the Air Force before I was, and he told me to try and get a maintenance job or something in a more technical career field," said Best. "At that time they really pushed people, especially females, to go into secretarial positions but I had him to guide me."

Hanson's success in the Air Force as a computer maintenance airman motivated Best to start asking him questions so that she could eventually join the Air Force.

"During my time as an active-duty airman, the most important lesson I learned was teamwork. We had to work together, and even though I felt like I was willing to learn, I was also willing to teach what I learned to other airmen who also wanted to learn," said Best. "We were one big team, regardless of what field they were in. We had a mission to complete, and we knew it, so if we needed to help somebody else do their side of the work, we all worked together to do that."

While she has had a long and fulfilling career in the Air Force, Best plans on retiring by the end of this year. She looks forward to spending her time camping and hiking with her now retired husband.

"I planned on staying in the Air Force but once I was married, my plans changed. However, I still wanted to remain a part of the Air Force as long as possible," said Best. "Giving up a profession that is rewarding turned out to be more difficult than I thought." 

Read next close

News Front

Madigan’s command changes hands

comments powered by Disqus