Reservist inspires women, Airmen alike

Master Sgt. Eileen Safford, 940th Maintenance Group training manager, Beale Air Force Base, California, is shown wearing her dress and crown on one side and her Air Force uniform on the other.

Master Sgt. Eileen Safford, 940th Maintenance Group training manager, Beale Air Force Base, California, wears her dress and crown and Air Force uniform, January 11, at Beale AFB, California. Safford has competed in an upward of 40 pageants and served 29 years in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Morgan Brown and Tech. Sgt. Brenda Bell)


Master Sgt. Eileen Safford doesn’t let the stressors of life bring her down. Whether she is walking on stage, wearing a dress and crown, or helping her fellow Airmen in her uniform, she is happy to share her story and encourage others along their way.
“I can be divorced, have kids and my career, but I can also go from combat boots to high heels,” said the 940th Maintenance Group training manager, Beale Air Force Base, California, and current Ms. California USA. 
Safford passed through 42 foster homes before finding her forever home at age 14. Previously receiving little support from her foster families, Safford’s adoptive parents encouraged her to enter her first pageant in Yuba City, California, to build confidence from the experience.
“Eileen has truly shown me that even when life kicks you down, you can find the strength to keep going,” said Safford’s mentee, Staff Sgt. Breona Calvert, 50th Intelligence Squadron NCO in charge of command support staff, Beale AFB, California. 
And keep going she did.  The first decision Safford made for herself as an adult was to join the Army. Then she decided to continue serving in the Air National Guard and finally the Air Force Reserve. Now, with her 29 years of experience as a military service member, she is passing her knowledge and personal experiences to younger Airmen.
Calvert, the current Miss Placer County, met Safford when she was relatively new to pageantry.
“I felt a bit inadequate around the other women because they had already done pageants. Eileen reassured me that I was worthy and meant for this. So I gave it my all,” said Calvert.
Since then, Calvert has won the California International Junior Miss Golden State 2020 title.
Safford continues to compete and uses her pageant experiences to make a difference. She was the first military woman to earn the Ms. California USA title and has competed in an upward of 40 pageants, of which, she won 11 national titles.
“Many creative ideas flow from this incredible woman and she is more than willing to share them with others,” said Ellen McGovern, Worldwide USA Pageant CEO. 
One of Safford’s initiatives is helping to prevent bullying in schools and at home.  She started the Child Abuse and Prevention with Peers in School project in Yuba City, California. She is also an advocate for both the Children’s Hope Foster Care Agency and the California Foster Care System.
While Safford has devoted time to mentoring and supporting women outside of the military, she continues to have a strong dedication to her career and fellow Airmen.
“I want to make a difference,” said Safford. “It doesn’t have to be on a big stage. When we (Airmen) take this uniform off, we can serve in different ways.”

March is Women’s History Month - a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women from all walks of life and their resilience to constantly progress.