From makeup to maintenance: 100th CES Power Pro Airman shares story

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Viviam Chiu
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The year was 2019 when Gracie Gary began her career in cosmetology. Her family ran a local beauty bar, and she had other family members who served in the U.S. Air Force, so both cosmetology and military service were second nature to her.

Gary, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the middle child between two brothers. She currently works in the 100th Civil Engineer Squadron as a power production electrical technician.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a pilot”, said Gary. “My grandfather was a pilot for the Blackhawks during the Vietnam War, and I really admired him. But people said it would be too hard, and told me to take over the family cosmetology business instead.”

At 15 years old, in her sophomore year of high school, she began learning how to give professional manicures, style and dye hair.

“It was a lot of fun and drama, as you can imagine”, she recalled “ I learned a lot and loved my clients.”

However, in her heart, she felt pressured to hide what she really wanted, to be less defined by looks and more by technical skills.

“I played sports when I was a kid, but my mom decided it wasn’t very ladylike and wanted to be more girly”, said the power pro Airman. “Although I was a tomboy, my mom signed me up for cheerleading and the girl scouts. I was a golden child: everything I did during that time was to make my parents look better.”

During middle and high school, she participated in multiple extracurricular activities as a girl scout, cheerleader, track and field sprinter, and training beautician. However, she wanted to pursue another interest – auto body mechanics.

“I wanted to go to school for auto body rather than just cosmetology”, said Gary. “During my freshman year of high school, I applied to a technical school for auto body, but got pushed into the school’s cosmetology program” said Gary.

From the age of 16, she completed 1,250 credit hours throughout three years at the technical school in order to become a fully qualified cosmetologist.

With the support of her best friend, the Pittsburgh native decided to visit her local U.S. Air Force recruiter after graduating high school, and left for Basic Military Training in August 2022 to become a power production technician.

“My mom really wanted me to take over the business”, said Gary. “But it wasn’t what I wanted – so here I am.”

RAF Mildenhall is her first duty station and she has been in the operational Air Force for 7 months.

“My current job is fun and my team is funny”, said Gary.

As an electrical power production apprentice, Gary ensures electricity is available across the installation by performing maintenance on equipment like generators and operating power stations.

“Gracie is extremely intelligent and a hard worker," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Berry, 100th CES power production supervisor. “And she’s fun and goofy – she brings life into the shop.”

Although Gary works in a male-dominated career field, she said she feels as though gender stereotyping does not affect her currently. She currently enjoys learning her trade, having friends from diverse parts of the world, and traveling, and plans to continue her education.

“Doing what society wants you to do – won’t make you or them any happier”, said Gary. “When it comes to following your dreams, just go do it.”