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Leading by example

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Chief Master Sgt. SaRita Lathan, 48th Fighter Wing command chief, chats with 6-year-old Gabriel Blankenship during the Deployed Spouses Dinner Feb. 15, 2012. The base hosts this special dinner quarterly for the spouses and children to show support and let the families know they're not forgotten while their loved ones are deployed.   (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lee A. Osberry Jr.)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Chief Master Sgt. SaRita Lathan, 48th Fighter Wing command chief, chats with 6-year-old Gabriel Blankenship during the Deployed Spouses Dinner Feb. 15, 2012. The base hosts this special dinner quarterly for the spouses and children to show support and let the families know they're not forgotten while their loved ones are deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lee A. Osberry Jr.)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- As I reflected on this year's Black History Month theme, Black Women in American Culture & History, I wondered who would be the best person to set the right image.

Who better to speak of, than an amazing woman who I know has impacted me not only as a daughter, a wife and a mother, but for all of us as Airmen. The woman I am talking about is Chief Master Sgt. SaRita Lathan, 48th Fighter Wing command chief.

I spoke with the command chief recently, and she explained that while it is a great accomplishment to be the first African-American command chief master sergeant at the 48th FW, it is not what she wants to be remembered for. She wants to be remembered as the chief that was always around to take care of Airmen; someone who was always looking for better ways to improve everything she could for the greater good of the base and her Airmen.

As a single mother during the first two years of my daughter's life I came across many different scenarios that posed a challenge for me as an adult and as a dedicated Airman. In the Air Force, even when you have a child, you are expected to perform with excellence in all you do and also be prepared for the Air Force call as much as any other Airman. I struggled with this for a while due to the fact it seemed almost impossible to handle.

In talking with Chief Lathan I realized that I not only admire the extreme professionalism that seems to radiate from her, but her similarities with me as a single mother and an Airman. Her direct down to earth answers and her beginning attitude in the Air Force seemed to almost mirror mine.

In my career I've had people tell me that I couldn't make it in the Air Force and that I shouldn't be promoted. Chief Lathan gave me the comfort of knowing that I was not alone and if you apply yourself, instead of giving in to negative comments or inputs, you can prove to yourself and others it is achievable.

Throughout black history, many have fought and died, protested and preached for equality. They have treated others as they wanted to be treated. I feel that these are standards that Chief Lathan lives up to and I respect her for that.

She is my role model for this year's theme in more ways than one. All I can tell her is thank you for being my role model.