Valley veteran breaks through military ranks, makes history for women's equality

TEMPE, Ariz. (FOX 10) - "I enjoy being the boss, I'll tell you that flat out. I enjoy running things," said Maralin Coffinger, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general.

Once a school teacher...

"I'm not going to take no for an answer. Let's get it done."

Her dedication to serve her country in 1963 turned Maralin Coffinger into a decorated veteran and woman of history.

"Before I got too old to be commissioned, I decided to look into the military, which is something I thought about many years but didn't do anything about it," she said.

Maralin says it's no secret that the military was a male-dominated field. However, that didn't stop her from not only wanting to serve but wanting to lead, regardless of her gender.

"If you're going to do a job, do it right and if you do that in the military, you get rewarded and I really didn't aspire to become officer simply because you couldn't in those days," she said.

Rising through the ranks and having served in the Pentagon during Vietnam and in the Middle East later within her career, Maralin was honored in 1985 as brigadier general before retiring from the Air Force after 26 years of service.

"Women have to be ready to compete and if they don't prepare themselves to compete right alongside the men... you can't just let it sit there and think it's going to be handed over to you," she said.

Through both hardships and fond memories, 83-year-old Maralin says lifelong friendships were built with those she commanded over, with many of those being men.

"I was still the boss. I was still responsible for what these guys did, but we did a mutual relationship where we had that mutual respect and it just worked out really great," she said.

Though she doesn't consider herself a champion of women's issues, she hopes her story helps other women make even greater strides toward equality for the future.