RINGGOLD, LA (KSLA) - Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Sandy Franks had a remarkable military career — a career made possible by female trailblazers before her.
"It didn't make a difference where the Air Force asked me to go or what they asked me to do, I was going to do the best that I could do. I was going to excel to the best of my ability and that's what I tried to do during my career," Franks said.
At the age of 24, and the mother of two, she enlisted in the Air Force. During her time there, she took all opportunities she could as they came.
"I went to my First Sergeant and said I want to apply to the First Sergeant career field, and he said you won't make it, and I said well let me just apply. Let me just see if I can make it, and so he put in the request, and we sat down and we put in the paperwork and I went to the board.
During her time in the service, she had to prove herself in front of a group of men who outranked her.
"They said do you have any questions for us? I said I do. I'd like to know if there's a man sitting in the seat speaking to you, do you start every question with 'As a man how would you handle thus and so?,' and they just stopped, they didn't know what to say, and I said it was a rhetorical question, it doesn't require an answer thank you very much for your time I appreciate meeting the board."
Franks went on to be the first woman to become First Sergeant of a Pararescue Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
"To have that squadron, it was about 165 people," Franks said. "I went TDY with them a lot, we were the first squadron to have the UH-60 helicopter, which the Army calls the Blackhawk we called them the Nighthawk. They were proud of me and I was proud of them."
Her career then took her to England, where she saw Soviet inspectors arrive as part of the INF treaty that banned ground base cruise missiles that her squadron had at the ready.
"If we would've gone to war, those medium-range nuclear missiles would be the first ones to be fired."
While serving, she witnessed some of the some of the world's most historic moments firsthand, including the first Gulf War and the fall of the Berlin Wall while station in Germany as a part of the 377 Security Police Squadron.
However, her tenure was marred by common tragedies that all those who serve faces.
"I've had to send my troops home in flag-covered caskets because they've died on active duty, so those are the kind of things that you deal with as a First Sergeant," Franks said. "When they're good you get to pat them on the back, when they're bad you get to give them a kick and try to get them turned around straightened out."
From running medical squadrons to overseeing protocol reporting directly to generals, Franks mastered it all. She humbly admits her achievements came with help from above.
"The hand of God had me and was taking me where I needed to go."
Franks retired 23 years to the day she enlisted on August 1st, 1997.
"They handed me that flag and in the picture, I took it and put it up against my chest and my eyes are closed, and I think I just thanked God for such a great life," she said.
(Source: Sandy Franks)
"When you look at the opportunities for women in the military today they are endless, they are boundless there's not anything they (women) cannot do," she said.