ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE — For Col. Sharon Hunter, 97th Medical Group commander, cooking and food sparked an interest in an Air Force career as a dietician.
Hunter, a native of Blairsville, Ga., enjoyed school from the start.
“When I was in high school, I enjoyed math more [than other subjects],” Hunter said. “But school didn’t offer too many math programs.”
While going to school in a small town, access to some programs was limited, but that did not get in the way of Hunter’s goals.
After high school, Hunter majored in food service management at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Ga., for her undergraduate degree, and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., for her graduate degree in nutrition and food science.
“I was interested in cooking and food,” Hunter said. “Being a dietician really isn’t about cooking though. It’s about what food can do for you. The food science part was particularly interesting to me because it focused on how the different ingredients interact to become a product.”
When the Air Force offered a dietetic internship, Hunter jumped at the opportunity. She worked as a local dietician for a just a few months before she was offered entry into the Air Force.
“My dad and his two brothers retired from the Air Force,” Hunter said. “So I was familiar with it. Just knowing how proud of him I was and how proud he was of what he did when he served in the Air Force influenced my decision to join.”
When asked if she experienced any obstacles as a woman serving in the Air Force, Hunter replied, “I would say not so much as a woman. I think being in the medical career field, there are more women. I think that by the time that I came into the Air Force, women were accepted as part of the medical service.”
Hunter attributes this to all women in history who have paved the way.
“I think that we, as women today, owe it to many women in history,” Hunter said. “For that, I think that I have not had a difficult path.”
With a cost conscious culture in mind, Hunter believes that it is important to be innovative while still accomplishing the mission and still being true to “who we are as a culture and an organization.”
“It is not the 80s, 90s, or the 50s,” Hunter said. “With respect for the AFIs, I think it is important to be innovative with the way we do things and move forward.”
Hunter emphasized the importance of innovative women who have shown they can do the same jobs as men.
“I think the sky is the limit,” Hunter said. “I think history shows that women can do anything that they put their minds to. In the past there was a belief that men had the technical minds and were better suited for those kinds of careers while women were believed to be the touchy-feely nurses. I think time has shown that women are just as successful as men in those technically-related careers.”
“If you know what you want, then go after it,” Hunter said.