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Missile squad gets first woman chief

Lt. Col. Patricia Fornes remembers exactly where she was when she decided she wanted to take over the missile squadron her father once commanded. She just didn't realize she would be making military history.

It was 1978 and the Air Force had just decided to let women join missile crews.

"I was sitting in a radar station on a hillside in Alaska," Fornes recalled Wednesday. "When the announcement came through that women were going to be allowed to be on missile crews, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to command the 740th."

Today, Fornes will be sworn in as commander of the 740th Missile Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, the same squadron her father commanded more than 20 years ago. It now is equipped with Minuteman III missiles. She will be the first woman in Air Force history to command an operational missile squadron.

"My dad's pretty tickled," she said. "When I called to tell him that this had happened, he was beside himself. It was the first time he was ever speechless to me."

"I didn't have much to say. That is quite unusual," said retired Lt. Col. Glenn Fornes. "Her mother and I always insisted that she could do anything she ever wanted and she's proven that."

Fornes, 40, will be in charge of 74 people and five missile launch control centers, which have 10 missiles each. Fornes said taking over the squadron is not only a personal triumph, but proof of how much the military has matured in the past 20 years.

Her husband, Lt. Col. Douglas Marshall III, said his wife was made a commander because of her strong qualifications and her determination. "I can't say this really surprised me at all," he said.