SPECIAL REPORT:Women in Tough Jobs - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Women in Tough Jobs


They are our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. Every day strong women are tackling jobs that keep criminals off the streets or help protect our country.

For three days, FOX 54's Mackenzie Patterson followed three different women who are all working hard in jobs that are dominated by men.

One by one, soldiers jump with nothing around them except an airplane and blue sky.  It is all a part of Airborne School on Fort Benning, but before they can become airborne qualified, the soldiers have to go through training.  That is where Jump Master, Sergeant Lauren Bailey comes into play.     

"It's hard work.  It's long hours, but it pays off.  We train the paratroopers of the United States Army, and that is a really big accomplishment in my book," said Bailey.

There are 115 Airborne Instructors in the School.  They are known for the signature black hats that sit on their heads.  The 25-year-old is one of only 10 female "Black Hats" that help to train soldiers from all branches of the Armed Forces on how to jump out of planes.

"I'm a little more tough because the majority of the people going through the school are Rangers and Infantry.  They're all men, and, so, they've got this female that is Airborne, and you kind of have to prove yourself and be hard," said Bailey.

First Sergeant Krista Keune, also a Jump Master, has many duties.  One of those is helping to manage the Airborne School.  She says it is important for women to be role models for other soldiers.

"Don't let your gender hold you back.  Always look forward and try to be the best that you can be in whatever you choose to do," said Keune.

"It most definitely makes me want to set a standard, and to show females that you don't have to be, you know average, you can actually accomplish more," said Bailey.

A normal day for Keila Stewart is suiting up in gear that looks like it could outweigh her.

"We have to earn our respect here just like anybody else, but you know, sometimes, I think this is a little bit tougher because we are girls, and this is a guy's world.  So, we kind of have to earn our keep for them to want to keep us," said Stewart.

Since 2006, the 37-year-old has been a firefighter and paramedic for Columbus.  Just one of her responsibilities is to help train firefighter hopefuls in a live fire simulator.  However, even during the dirty and potentially dangerous work, she adds a bit of feminine flare.

"We have our manicures.  We, you know, do our hair.  The only thing different, the only thing with me is, and I'm sure the other girls do too, is you have to wear waterproof mascara," said Stewart.

The single mom has to juggle raising her teenage son and working 24 hour shifts on the job.

"I just had to incorporate my family, my friends.  Trust with him.  He's a boy.  He, you know, he tested the limits sometimes, but for the most part, just communication and you know, he had to understand the job that I was in," said Stewart.

While she says the guys give her a hard time about being a girl, it can come in handy when it counts.

"We all have our strengths, and you know, I'm smaller compared to some of my other guys.  So, I can get in places that they can't, and they can lift stuff that I can't.  So, we work together as a team," said Stewart.

With her taser and pink handcuffs, Charlotte Riley gets ready for her day.  For nearly 30 years, she has been a bondsman helping to bond people out of jail but hunting them down if they do not show for court.

"We have our tasers.  We have our guns and whatever, and, we're not there to try to hurt anybody.  You know we're basically, we're there to say, 'Hey, you've got to go to court.  We've got to take you in," said Riley.

As owner of A1A Bail Bonding Company, she joins ranks with men bounty hunters and bondsmen scouring Columbus going from house to house in search of their "clients" who did not honor their agreement: we bond you out, you go to court.

However, she says dealing with people accused of anything from traffic violations to violent crimes like aggravated assaults has never scared her even if she is the only woman in the pack.

"I'm more of a mother figure to most of the people that we get out of jail.  A lot of them call me Mom, a lot of them call me Aunt.  They don't call me Charlotte or they call me Ms. Riley," said Riley.

The 58-year-old says it is a chance to help others whether it is showing an accused criminal the right thing to do or keeping local neighborhoods safe by getting someone potentially dangerous off the streets.

For her it is addictive, and there is no end in sight.

"Once you get in it, it is just kind of hard to get out of it," said Riley.

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