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Women of the 21st Space Wing: Setting the example

CAVALIER AIR FORCE STATION, N.D. -- Second Lt. Brinetta Hence, 10th Space Warning Squadron crew commander, stands outside the base March 17, 2014. Hence is also in charge of operations training where she is responsible for mission qualification training. (Courtesy photo)

CAVALIER AIR FORCE STATION, N.D. -- Second Lt. Brinetta Hence, 10th Space Warning Squadron crew commander, stands outside the base March 17, 2014. Hence is also in charge of operations training where she is responsible for mission qualification training. (Courtesy photo)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Second Lt. Brinetta Hence, 10th Space Warning Squadron crew commander, (center), her mother, Karlene Ashby, (left), sister Briana Wilkins, step-mother, Carolyn Hickman, and husband Quincy Hence after Hence’s commissioning ceremony in Balboa Park June 2012. Hence was raised in a military family in California and was a cadet at San Diego State University ROTC. (Courtesy photo)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Second Lt. Brinetta Hence, 10th Space Warning Squadron crew commander, (center), her mother, Karlene Ashby, (left), sister Briana Wilkins, step-mother, Carolyn Hickman, and husband Quincy Hence after Hence’s commissioning ceremony in Balboa Park June 2012. Hence was raised in a military family in California and was a cadet at San Diego State University ROTC. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Born on an Army base in Monterey, Calif., just two minutes before her twin sister, 2nd Lt. Brinetta Hence, was raised in a family with very high standards. An Army drill instructor father expected her to set an example for her twin sister and to the rest of the world.

From a very early age, her parent's household taught her the importance of education and to be an independent woman. During her sophomore year of high school, she was accepted to a school teaching college-level courses alongside high school courses. Just a year after taking this challenging step in her life, her best friend and little sister decided to move to New York to be with their mother; tearing apart the world Hence knew.

"My heart felt like it literally fell out of my body when my sister told me she was moving away from me," said Hence. "A twin bond is something that cannot be replaced. Although I was extremely distraught, I have always been the type to put life priorities before feelings and I knew my little sister would still be my biggest cheerleader."

Completing 30 college credit hours by the time she graduated high school, Hence was focused on being the example. While attending college, Hence wanted to do more than just be a student. She became part of San Diego State's ROTC program, worked part-time, met her husband, and began volunteering.

"My goals focus more on making a difference in the world in my own way and being successful in whatever I put my mind to," said Hence.

After college, she became a space operator with the 10th Space Warning Squadron at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D., where she is responsible for performing missile warning and space surveillance. The squadron as a whole tracks more than 68,000 objects per day to enable space surveillance, space control and detecting missiles. Also, as a new second lieutenant, she was placed in charge of operations training, where she is responsible for mission qualification training, building lesson plans, knowledge exams and performance scenarios to keep the squadron ready to operate.

With a large scope of responsibility, Hence, still finds time to continue her education and volunteer locally.

She was placed in charge of an annual Arbor Day event and has volunteered for an Operation Kid's Christmas event at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in 2012 when she was stationed there for technical school.

"My sister was and is still my hero," said Briana Wilkins, who resides in Long Island, N.Y., and is a student and executive administrative assistant. "When I need help, she is always there. She has taught me that even though I may struggle with something, I need to try my best and finish it. Her motto was something like 'quitting is for people that are lazy and don't want to succeed in life'; I live by that motto."

She credits her character and career successes to her struggle to stay a role-model for the women in her life and other young women.

"My mother always inspired me to never let someone or something stop me from pursuing my dreams because only I can make my life worth living," said Hence. "Having a mother and sister who look at me as if I am the example of success is the best positive motivation that I could receive."

Ultimately, Hence wants to finish her master's degree, start a charity to provide clothing for families in poor areas of the world, and start a family with her husband.

"There is no difference between men and women in the military," said Hence. "Women have contributed to the armed forces for many years. When people set their mind to protect freedom and their country, woman or man, there is no limit to what they can accomplish and diversity enables the armed forces to develop a well-versed military. While it is great to be viewed as a strong woman who works hard, I would like to be known as an individual who is known through my merits."

"My sister was and will always be an influence in my life," said Wilkins. "She is such a great person with a lot of ambition and such a great heart."

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

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