Judith Sullivan: The View From the Top

May 3, 2005
Supervisor, Training Instructor Judith Sullivan's approach to life is to face challenges head on, give it your all and never give up.

Supervisor, Training Instructor Judith Sullivan's approach to life is to face challenges head on, give it your all and never give up.

Q: How did you get into the GSE/AGE industry?

A: I was an electronic principles instructor from 1980 until 1988. In 1988 the course I was teaching moved to another base. That's when I was selected to teach Aerospace Ground Equipment. Having no prior mechanical experience, I really had a lot to learn. As with most courses, I was placed where there was a need. So I started in the middle of the Air Conditioners, Air Cycle Machine and Bomblifts course. Soon I was packing wheel bearings with the best of them.

Q: What are you doing in the field currently?

A: I am the instructor supervisor for the 7-level courses. I've been an instructor supervisor in the AGE course since 1993.

Q: What trends have you seen over the years?

A: In the past 25 years classroom instruction has become so high tech. When I started in 1980 we were using chalk and flip charts. Now we have the capability of showing oil and fuel flow through the equipment with the aid of computers and smart board technology. More women are now in the career field, and I'm always encouraged to see so many stay with the job and return to 7-level school for upgrade training. They are part of the "team." Everyone in the classroom and in the shop must pull their weight.

Q: Did you ever run into challenges as a woman in the field?

A: In 1980 when I became an instructor in the Electronic Principles Course, I was one of two female instructors. I think everyone was curious to see if we could make it. In 1988 when I came to AGE again there were just a couple of women teaching in the course. Today, there are three military women and one civilian teaching AGE. I've been so lucky in my 35 year career with the military to be allowed to move up and to better myself through education. The Air Force has allowed me to do this. I've worked hard and they have rewarded me at every turn.

Q: What is the most memorable moment in your career or your favorite part of working in the industry?

A: There are so many memorable moments it's hard to choose just one. Being promoted to instructor supervisor would have to be at the top. My favorite part of working in this career field would have to be the people. I've worked with so many great AGE mechanics and outstanding instructors. I can't imagine ever doing anything else.

Q: Any advice to others in the field?

A: When I became an instructor in 1980 and was really struggling to learn electronics, some days I felt like giving up. A friend of mine told me, "Sullivan, the stairs go both ways. You can go up and become an instructor, or you can come down and go back to your old job." I really like the view from the top of the stairs. I challenged myself and did it. Never give up!

Q: Anything else you feel is important for our readers to know?

A: Yes, the Air Force has the most highly skilled and trained AGE people. Any employer would be blessed to have them.