Van E. Harl
NO PINK HUMVEES AND NO BARBIE JEEPS
Brigadier General Mary Kay Hertog, USAFWhen you hear the name Mary Kay you might think of a pink Cadillac driven by a woman who has been very successful in the cosmetic industry. Envision Mary Kay Ash and her rags to riches story of empowering women to do great things in the corporate world. There is however another empowered female by the name of Mary Kay and her world is the predominately male world of the Air Force Security Forces (read “cops”).
Brigadier General Mary Kay Hertog is the new Director of Security Forces, Headquarters, Air Force. In the old days before they changed the title, she would have been known as the Chief of Police of the Air Force. There are no pink humvees or Barbie jeeps for General Hertog. While she is a very pleasant and personable individual to be around, there is no doubt she is the “top cop” in the Air Force and she knows what to do and how best to get the security job accomplished. Gen. Hertog was the first female “cop” colonel promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force, but this was no surprise to anyone in the career field. I knew her twenty five years ago when she was a Captain and she impressed the old battle-hardened male “cops” even back then.
In the Air Force there were two types of “cops.” There were the Law Enforcement ones. These “cops” were similar to civilian police. They drive marked patrol cars, work traffic issues and respond to dispatched calls. The security side, are the “cops” who guard airplanes, nuclear weapons, missile fields and used to take on most of the deployment assignments; and they also had to be the Air Force’s infantry in time of conflict.
While there were women in Law Enforcement, the Air Force worked hard to keep women out of the security side. They staged a trial effort by putting a few hundred women in security. It was not supposed to succeed and it did not. Unfortunately there was a quiet undertone that did not really give women commissioned officers in the Security Police a fair shake either. It was pre-supposed that women were not going to do well as squadron commanders and chiefs-of-police. Comments were made about assigning women officers a commander’s job, “but make sure they are given a good staff to prop them up”. Nobody expected the new up and coming women leaders to do very well. This was not the case with Mary Kay Hertog.
From the time I first started hearing about her as a new Captain there was always a different expectation. She was not going to need to be carried or propped up or helped along. Mary Kay Hertog was not going to meet the standards of a Security Police commissioned officer she was going to set them. In the 1980s they started putting women in large numbers back into the security side of the house.
This meant that women were going to have to function just as their male counterparts, as Air Force infantry, in time of war. In the 1990s the name of the Air Force “cops” changed from Security Police to Security Forces. Even more emphasis was placed on ground pounding infantry skills and the women “cops” were right there in the middle of the training. Women “cops” train and deploy into every location and situation that the men “cops” do. To have a senior women NCO or officer leading a team of “cops” into a “hot” combat area in this day and age is just operations-normal.
When General Hertog was first promoted she did not take over as the “top cop” for the Air Force. They brought in a new general from a different career field. General Hertog was at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas commanding the largest training wing in the world. She did an excellent job in training but she is first and foremost a “cop” and now she is back where my big Air Force needs her the most. The ground combat mission for the Security Forces is off the chart and there has to be some relief for the “cops.” I would suggest that non-cop influences within the Air Force have not truly understood the overall abilities and limitations of the Security Forces.
General Hertog understands Air Force “cops”; she is the drive and direction we need. I congratulate her on the promotion and look forward to her “cop-on-cop” leadership. We need her back, praise the Lord.
©Copyright December 13, 2006 by Van E. Harl