Margaret H. Woodward is a decorated member of the United States Air Force. Born in 1960, Woodward was raised in India and Pakistan, where her father was employed by the US Agency for International Development. Her family later relocated to California. She went on to graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering. She then attended Air Command and Staff College at Air University. Woodward went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Aviation Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. A great believer in education, she earned a second Master’s Degree in National Security Strategy from National War College.
Woodward joined the US Air Force the year after obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree. She spent the majority of her military career refueling aircraft. While she was growing up in Pakistan, she dreamed of one day flying an aircraft. She was saddened an annoyed when a high school guidance counselor informed her that women were not allowed to fly in the military. Woodward was indignant saying, “It was such a shock to me. I was like, no, they’re going to have to change it, because this is my destiny.”
Fortunately, the Air Force began offering pilot training to women in 1978. Woodward headed straight to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. There she met her husband, also a pilot in training. Woodward went on to pilot many aircraft, including the Boeing C-40 Clipper, and the T-37 and T-38 trainers. This experience allowed her to play key parts in the U.S. invasion of Panama, Operation Allied Force, Operations Northern and Southern Watch, and Operation Enduring Freedom. She even became a part of the crew responsible for Air Force One.
Woodward received the following awards and honors: US Air Force Command Pilot Badge, Headquarters Air Force Badge, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal. Following these and other honors, and an exemplary career, Margaret Woodward approached her retirement from the Air Force after thirty years of military service to the country she loves so much. Not one to rest on her laurels, Woodward accepted an offer to serve as the head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.
She strategically put together a team of experts in this field. She appointed researchers, attorneys, investigators and victim’s advocates. Considering sexual abuse in the military’s ranks an insurgency, Woodward knew its eradication necessitated creating a culture where victims feel safe coming forward with their accusations and abusers are held accountable for their actions.
The daughter of a diplomat and granddaughter of a World War I pilot, Woodward initially joined the Air Force due to her desire to fly. She completed her career in a position to help men and women withstand the worst form of abuse without losing themselves of their military careers in the process. This work had such an impact on her that she went on to volunteer for other organizations that support sexual assault victims. Woodward demonstrates that women can follow their dreams in the face of obstacles and adversity, have a thriving and rewarding career, and still spend time advocating for and helping others.