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Women of the 21st Space Wing: Inspiring others

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Capt. Keturah Spence, 76th Space Control Squadron crew commander, stands in front of an advanced tactical satellite antenna March 24. Spence is originally from Harlem, N.Y., and has been stationed at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass., and here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Capt. Keturah Spence, 76th Space Control Squadron crew commander, stands in front of an advanced tactical satellite antenna March 24. Spence is originally from Harlem, N.Y., and has been stationed at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass., and here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Capt. Keturah Spence grew up in two different cultures. The stark contrast of summers spent in the multicultural neighborhoods of Harlem, N.Y., and the rest of the year spent in the small town environment of Waynesboro, Ga., population less than 6,000, gave her two different perspectives on life. While she was exposed to two different locations with diverse cultures; the one thing she never had exposure to was females in the military.

Her parents were 20 years old when she was born and they never married. She was raised by her great grandparents in Waynesboro and spent time with her father in Harlem.

When she was 15, her great-grandfather died, making her the main caregiver for her great grandmother - forcing her to grow up early. Already participating in her local Junior ROTC, she found a new world.

"Junior ROTC helped me cope with the losses and hardships in my life," said Spence. "Sometimes it only takes one person to open your eyes to a whole new world and Junior ROTC defined for me what it's like to be a leader."

Since Junior ROTC, Spence has focused on inspiring change and becoming an example for others to follow.

Growing up, Spence never met a female military officer until she was in Junior ROTC and she never met a black female officer until she was on active-duty, she said.

Today, Spence is a crew commander and assistant flight commander with the 76th Space Control Squadron here, where she leads about 20 people on any given day conducting offensive space control -- a long way from Harlem or Waynesboro. Now that her socio-economic situation has improved, she is refocusing her efforts on inspiring others.

"My great grandmother, who was pivotal in my life, taught me that you should always give back, even if you don't have anything," said Spence. "So, when I go home, I bring my service dress and give back to the Junior ROTC program that helped me so much. When I have spare time in Colorado Springs, I spend it at the free health clinic."

She said when she visits Waynesboro, she wants to impress upon the Junior ROTC cadets that they can do something productive and that it is OK to step outside their comfort zone.

"Being a role model isn't always about doing something crazy," said Spence. "Sometimes, it's just about letting people know they can do something with their lives and you are there to prove it. Sometimes it means being that one person who can help someone believe."

The Junior ROTC program is close to Spence's heart and an easy connection can be drawn between her career and the program, she said. However, she also tries to be that one person who helps in other ways; going outside of her comfort zone, she volunteers at the free health clinic in Colorado Springs.

In college, Spence, who was not very close to her mother, found out that her mother was terminally ill. Her mother doesn't always have the means or money to get the medicine she needs, which has inspired Spence to help others when she can.

"If I was still in Waynesboro, I might be going to the free clinic for treatment, not volunteering to help others," said Spence. "That's just one of the many reasons I go to the clinic."

From having an example to being the example, Spence takes her experiences and translates them to be the role model for others. While some people are stuck where they are in what seems like a never ending cycle, just one person can inspire a change.

(This is the fourth and final part of a series spotlighting women in the military. March is Women's History Month.)

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