JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Adversity presents itself in many forms --observances such as Black History Month celebrate the cultural and political contributions African Americans have made towards a fully inclusive society.
This observance takes on many meanings in the eyes of the uniformed service members at JBLE.
“Black History Month means legacy, pride, unity and hope,” said Tech. Sgt. Cha’Niece Headley, 1st Fighter Wing command section noncommissioned officer in charge. “It means telling all the stories untold. Although I embrace Black History all year long, it’s especially unique during this month because it is a celebration of overcoming and becoming.”
Cha’Niece, a Kansas City, Missouri native, overcame many unique challenges before enlisting in the Air Force.
“After her parents separated, she moved to Miami, Florida, where she grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods, known as Brown Sub Housing Projects in Liberty City,” said Devon Headley, Cha’Niece’s husband.
She did not let financial challenges deter her from her ultimate goal of committing to a career of service.
“It was not an easy task, as she dealt with many setbacks preventing her from joining the military,” Devon added. “But, she was determined to enlist even if it meant being financially unstable for a short period of time, as she worked at a call center.”
Despite the roadblocks Cha’Niece faced, she was able to come out on top and enlist at 19 years old. However, her Air Force career was not always an easy journey.
“Two years after joining the Air Force I became a single mom,” Cha’Niece said. “While learning how to maneuver as a new mom, I was still trying to learn how to be a good Airman.”
In Cha’Neice’s very young career, she experienced personality conflicts with some of her leadership, which created an uneasy work environment.
“She was labeled as the ‘Problematic Black Girl’, due to her outspoken personality, when she just wanted to be heard,” Devon said. “[She was] a ball of energy that just wanted to be a sponge to soak up everything she could. After all, she had a child to set an example for.”
However, there were a few individuals who helped set a clear path for this young Airman, molding her as a future leader within the force.
“Although there were a lot of people who did not like my boldness, there was a group of people that appreciated me for me, invested time and knowledge into my life,” Cha’Niece said. “They helped me iron out the kinks that come with developing as a person, an Airman, and a leader.”
Throughout her career, Cha’Niece was able to turn negative experiences into positive ones, helping her be an inspiration to those she has led and will lead.
“Before you today, is someone who appreciates the grind,” Cha’Niece concluded. “I had to go through to come out on the other side, the tough conversations, the hard lessons, and the people who did not believe in me. I used the negative things as motivation to prove to only myself that I am better than what people wanted to make me out to be.”