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Women's History Month spotlight: Maj. Christina Hopper

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) -- March is National Women’s History Month and this year’s theme is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”

Women’s History Month started as a national celebration in 1981, when Congress authorized the president to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as Women’s History Week.

In 1987, Congress designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History

Throughout the month, Air Force Reserve Command will feature Air Force Reserve women whose contributions to the military and community pay homage to this year’s theme.

Today’s Air Force Reserve honoree is Maj. Christina “Thumper” Hopper, a T-38 instructor pilot with the 5th Flying Training Squadron in Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

Career highlights: Hopper graduated with honors and received her commission as the distinguished graduate of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Program at the University of Texas, Austin in May 1998.

In 1999, Hopper entered active duty and was selected to design and implement a new pilot screening program, ensuring the Air Force a qualified pool of candidates ready for flight training. She graduated Undergraduate Pilot Training in April 2000 and was selected to fly the F-16, becoming one of only two African-American females and 50 total female fighter pilots in the Air Force at that time.

Upon completion of F-16 training, Hopper was assigned to the 524th Fighter Squadron, Cannon AFB, New Mexico. Following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Hopper flew numerous combat air patrol missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle protecting the U.S. president and critical infrastructure. In 2002-2003, she deployed to Kuwait supporting Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom.

During those operations, Hopper flew more than 50 combat missions and became the first African-American female fighter pilot to fight in a major war.

While on a combat mission during one of the worst sandstorms in recorded Iraqi history, Hopper’s aircraft was struck by lightning, disabling her hostile threat warning system. Despite possible danger, her formation continued to the target and completed the mission successfully. The bombs she dropped that night impacted a road intersection where U.S. Army forces were engaged in battle with an Iraqi Republican Guard unit.

U.S. ground forces later told Hopper that when her bombs accurately hit their mark, the Iraqi army retreated from the fight. For her service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, she was awarded the Air Medal (third oak leaf cluster), the Aerial Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Medal.

For her historic contributions to the military and women in aviation, Good Housekeeping magazine named Hopper as one of the 2004 “Outstanding Woman in Government.” She was additionally recognized by Glamour magazine, Ebony magazine, and the 700 Club.

After her first assignment, Hopper served four years at Luke AFB, Arizona, as an F-16 instructor pilot and separated from the active-duty Air Force in 2008 with almost 1,000 hours in the F-16.

Today, Hopper balances a busy schedule as a full-time mother of three, military spouse, and Air Force Reserve T-38 instructor pilot, where she trains, instructs and mentors the next generation of fighter and bomber pilots. In 2015, she launched “Vance Supergirls,” a mentorship group for female aviators. Through this group, Hopper forged lines of communication between female instructors and students to encourage the success of future female pilots.