ATF Celebrates Women’s History Month: Heather Stacy

Heather Stacy in Air Force uniformHeather Stacy is a communications specialist within the Web Media Branch, which falls within the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs. Stacy has served our country for over 30 years, starting with 20 years in the Air Force. She has been with ATF only a few months, but ATF makes Stacy feel like she has a mission again; she explains, “I didn’t feel a strong connection to the mission of the last federal organization I worked for. I knew ATF’s mission would give me the sense of truly serving my country again. I am the fourth generation, and only woman, to serve in the military – and my son is the fifth. That is something my family is very proud of and something we hope will continue down the line.”

When she joined the Air Force, Stacy originally planned to stay for 4 years, but before she knew it, 4 years became 20. She retired as a master sergeant (E-7), for which she was proud, but wishes she would have gone higher. “I had to make a choice earlier in my career to either spend more time with my boys or go to college to finish my degree. I chose to spend more time with my boys. In the Air Force, to advance beyond E-7, you need a bachelor’s degree. Since retiring from the Air Force, I have continued training, going to college and advancing in my career, and I’m very happy with my progress,” said Stacy.

Instilled Family Values

Stacy’s great grandfather built the Ohio house that her grandmother, her mother and she all grew up in. That helped to ensure that family values were passed down from generation to generation. “It was a small farm with a garden, animals, fruit trees and bushes, and three pastures that all needed daily and weekly care,” said Stacy. “That’s three generations of strong women who not only took care of the house and cooking but picked the fruit, fed the animals, harvested the garden and mowed the pastures, while raising children and/or going to school or working a normal job.”

During World War II, while her grandfather was serving as a corpsman in Panama, Stacy’s grandmother held a wartime job helping to build dirigible balloons (blimps) at the Goodyear Company in Akron, Ohio. These smaller, unmanned dirigibles were used to distract German fighters from shooting at the men landing on the shores of Normandy. Although she wasn’t credited for serving in the military, Stacy’s grandmother and many other women played a significant role in World War II. 

“Today, women still, and always will, play a significant role in the federal workforce, whether serving in a leadership position, as a special agent or industry operations investigator, in forensics or STEM, or as a communication specialist, spreading the ATF message,” said Stacy. “Women bring their own unique viewpoint and skills to the federal workforce, adding to the overall effectiveness of the organization.” 

Maintaining a Work-Life Balance

Heather Stacy taking photographs on a military flightStacy discussed that one of the main work-life balances that needed to be solved early in her career was the “which parent is going to stay home with sick children” conundrum. Her husband grew up in a Portuguese family with a strong belief in the mother as the sole caregiver. It was a struggle to convince him otherwise, but her viewpoint was that they both served in the military and needed to share the time away from work. “We eventually worked it out and shared that time taking care of sick children as equally as possible,” she said. Through her own experiences and those of friends and colleagues, she believes “that we still have a long way to go for society to let go of the ‘traditional roles’ and instead view everything as ‘shared responsibilities.’”

Importance of Diverse Voices in Law Enforcement

Stacy believes it’s important for women to hold positions they traditionally have not because that makes their perspective even more valuable; they may be one of the few voices that stands out. “The uniqueness of how a woman’s mind works can be extremely beneficial to the team,” said Stacy. “To serve all communities across the United States, we need teams that look like we are from all over the United States and that includes women. The diversity of all these people together helps us build a stronger more productive federal organization.”

Reflecting on Women’s History Month

“I think it is very important to celebrate how far we have come. I have met women who have had a huge impact in my career,” said Stacy. As an example, she cited Martha McSally, who fought a long, hard battle to stop the mandatory wearing of the customary head-to-toe gown by American military women off base, when assigned to Middle Eastern countries. American servicewomen also weren’t allowed to drive, had to sit in the back seat and had to be always under male escort. This policy made American military women feel subservient to their male military colleagues. McSally eventually won that battle and paved the way for women like Stacy to be treated as an equal with her fellow servicemen while serving in Iraq. But Stacy believes society still has a long way to go. “Celebrating Women’s History Month serves as a reminder to me to never stop proving that I am an equal and helping to pave the way for future generations of women serving in federal government positions,” said Stacy. Her advice to women in the federal workforce is, “Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and be heard. Know that your voice is as important as the next person’s. After all, you’re the only you and no one else is going to analyze or solve the problem like you do.”

Last Reviewed March 29, 2024