News>All-female team launches historic mission over Afghanistan
Capt. Jennifer Morton performs a preflight inspection before take off March 29, 2011, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Morton is a 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron weapon system officer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sheila deVera)
Maj. Tracy Schmidt, Capt. Kimberly Volk, Maj. Christine Mau and Capt. Jennifer Morton pose before their mission March 29, 2011, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Schmidt is a 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, Volk is a 389th EFS weapons system officer, Mau is a 455th Air Expeditionary Wing executive officer and an F-15 pilot and Morton is a 389th EFS WSO. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sheila deVera)
by Tech. Sgt. Michael Voss
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
3/31/2011 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- A team of female Airmen made history here March 30 when the F-15E Strike Eagles of "Dudette 07" blazed down the runway to provide close air support for coalition and Afghan ground forces.
The two-ship formation consisted of all females, two pilots and two weapons system officers, but more importantly, it marked the first combat mission flown from Bagram to be planned, maintained and flown entirely by females.
This mission represents the first combat sortie on record to involve only female Airmen from the pilots and weapons officers to the mission planners and maintainers, said Lt. Col. Kenneth Tilley, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing historian.
Although the call sign for the mission may have been lighthearted, the sortie was all business calling for the pilots to travel to the Kunar Valley just west of the Pakistan border in support of a large Army operation that was underway.
"I have flown with female pilots before, but this was the first time I have flown in an all female flight," said Maj. Christine Mau, a 455th AEW executive officer. "This wasn't a possibility when I started flying 11-years ago."
While planning of the mission required support from women at all levels such as Capt. Kristen Wehle, the F-15 liaison officer at the combined air operations center, those involved evoked memories of legendary Women's Army Corps pilots and others for inspiration.
"Women's history means a celebration of the equality we have today in the military," said Capt. Jennifer Morton, a 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron weapons officer. "It makes me think back and find inspiration from heroes like Col. Jeannie Flynn."
In 1993, then 2nd Lt. Jeannie Flynn became the first female F-15E pilot. Although the Air Force permitted female pilots to enter pilot training in 1976, Lieutenant Flynn went on to become the first female fighter pilot to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Weapons School.
"Since 1993 we have had Air Force female pilots in combat positions, and because of that today I feel as a woman I can have whatever job I want," Morton said.
While Dudette 07 was set up to as an all female mission in honor of Women's History Month, Major Mau said inspiration for today's Airmen aspiring to great heights can come from many different places.
"I think I get a great deal of inspiration from my grandmother (who was a mother seven kids), but many of my role models today are males," she said.
In addition, the pilots never forget the contributions of the maintainers on the ground, maintainers like Airmen 1st Class Casiana Curry, who enlisted Sept. 11, 2009, and enables the continued support of the warfighters on the ground.
"The four women officers represents only a portion of the women who supported this mission making it the first all female from tasking to completion combat sortie to date," said Capt. Leigh Larkin, 389th EFS weapons systems officer.
"I thought it was kind of cool and something that I have never seen before," said Staff Sgt. Tamara Rhone, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "The women throughout time have paved the way for us today and they made it possible for us to be equal as well as respected as individuals. Females are a rare breed on the flight line. It is my hope that more females step up and join the maintenance career field."
2/1/2013 12:42:36 AM ET I remember in the 1960s when women first began to come on the flight line. There were a few assistant crew chiefs who were women. They had VERY heavy tool boxes to lift and carry. Within a week or two we began to notice a new sound we had not heard before. The women had put skate wheels under their tool boxes and pulled them behind them. Everybody laughed and laughed. But within a few months EVERYBODY had mounted their tool boxes on wheels and pulled them around the flight line. Women had arrived. John Womack Hickory NC John This made me smile. This is the type of self reflection many of us need to do. Observe. Adapt and overcome. This is what makes our country so great. There ARE differences between men and women. Those differences are what makes us such a great team. We all bring different views and ideas to the game. I revel in those differences.
1/25/2013 2:55:51 PM ET So when did the AFI change on how to where a pony tail
AFI 36-2903, Air Force
7/26/2012 3:22:40 PM ET Congratulations ladies You all make us very proud.Daniel Hunter SRA-Sep. USAF 1995-1999.
Daniel Hunter, Butte MT
4/18/2011 10:15:18 PM ET Regardless of race, sex, creed or color all Air Force Warriors ROCK. No, it shouldn't matter the gender of the pilot holding the stick or the WSO scanning the scopes. But you gotta admit women were once shunned, looked over and told they would never compete for a seat in a front-line U.S. fighter. For that reason alone this is great news. I remember when the first all female C-141 crew flew their first mission together - I think they were Reservists. That was news then as this is now. The Air Force that I am proud of trains the best people to fly and fight with the best tools. I happen to like it that way. The US Air Force was the first service to integrate the races. In doing so we gave our great nation a peek into our future and showed the world just how much greater we could be if we put our petty prejudices aside and work to keep the U.S. free and the strongest nation on the planet.
Thunder Thornton, Ft. Walton Beach
4/14/2011 7:29:54 PM ET When I was flying the F-16 in the AF 20 years ago, we mockingly joked about the rueful day that somebody would actually let women fly fighters. Since then things have obviously changed for the better and today my hat is off to these brave gals for DOING IT. This was a worthwhile event, a good story, and I looking forward to reading about women aviators in combat, or hopefully peace, next year. As for the smart guys here, if they're going out on a combat mission to maybe get shot at, as far as I'm concerned they can clip a flashlight to a zipper. And if they're going out to rain Mk-82-style death on the Taliban and they want to do it as Dudette 07 then I would call that a little bit of old fashioned fighter pilot spirit. Go for it.
Jeff Lane, Leesburg Virginia
4/11/2011 11:39:16 PM ET Outstanding. Just think how Taliban sees this... Americans sent their women to fight us. Talk about insulting them... and I love it.
Rob, SW Asia
4/6/2011 12:04:51 PM ET A C-17 crew did this back in March 2009 and again in 2010 and I'm sure they did it again this year. It has become kind of a tradition with the 816th EAS for Women's History Month. Where was their news coverage?
4/6/2011 7:25:08 AM ET Didn't the C-17s do this last year in a story highlighted by af.mil? And the KC-135s the year before in another story highlighted by af.mil? Guess it will be a different platform's turn next year. Yawn.
4/5/2011 7:24:27 PM ET This was done by a C-130 crew in 2005.
4/4/2011 5:05:55 PM ET What those women did made history. It was a FIRST. That's what makes it newsworthy. You'll never have to see another story about the first time an all female crew flew a combat mission from Bagram. I think if it's good enough for the history books it's good enough for a news story on af.mil.
SSgt Mills, Maxwell AFB
4/4/2011 3:03:01 PM ET Congrats
4/4/2011 2:16:07 PM ET All the guys whining about the sexism and preferential treatment for special months: look up privilege, and understand how you have it. You sound like someone who started out on third base who wonders why it's a big deal for people to make it to home plate. I know the women of this flight. ALL of them are qualified to do the role with ANY other member of the squadron - they wouldn't be flying close air support if they weren't. They provided the same level and quality of support as an all-male flight would - and I can tell you with 100 percent certitude the guys on the ground in Konar appreciated that support on that day.
4/4/2011 12:21:06 PM ET First, congrats to these warriors for serving. However, this event is supposed to be highlighting an accomplisment by female Airmen and they call it Dudette 07? Really? What exactly is a dudette? If I were to call any female Airmen a dudette, I'd have MEO all over me. A dudette, unfortuately, is something you will probably be seeing at a recruiting office near you after DADT is repealed....
4/4/2011 12:02:49 PM ET If this was all done by a group of Hellen Keller's, that would be cool. If not, who cares.
Jason, Hill AFB Utah
4/4/2011 11:27:46 AM ET JC - First, please stop pushing your religious values as a basis for military decisions. There is no military reason to keep females out of the combat cockpit. Second, females have been in the cockpit in combat for quite some time now. No laws are being violated.
4/4/2011 7:54:41 AM ET Political correctness from the Air Force? I'm sure the next breaking headline will be grass is green. I'm sure the clown that thought up this engineered-for-TV mission will get a great efficiency report. If women want to be equal they need to quit thinking they are special. They shouldn't expect the easier jobs and preferential treatment they usually get. These women aren't doing anything exceptional, just what they're paid to do. Nobody claps when men show up for work. So where's the non-contrived news story?
4/3/2011 8:10:31 PM ET Female AIRMEN. Interesting turn of phrase.
4/3/2011 7:49:17 PM ET As an 81 year old lady bird from the'40s and '50s when with a commercial licence I could not get a job, I think this is so wonderful to read about, despite all the negative comments. I have read here women have come a long way since I flew my first solo and obtained a commercial licence in 1951. My best wishes to all the girls!
Heather, melbourne australia
4/3/2011 7:39:43 PM ET Good job team. Some ladies are allowed out without a male escort. Paybacks a killer....
Robert P., PNS FL
4/3/2011 6:28:21 PM ET The reason this is a significant milestone is pretty well underlined by the negative comments found below the article. If gender truly didn't matter any more those commentators would view this in the light it was probably intended, as something that could be done with the number of women serving now and an homage to those who have gone before. In other words, it would be a matter of vague interest or something to support or it would just generate apathy. What is the real problem with this event or the reporting done of it What was the real offense The only reason the gender of those participating in this mission was mentioned was because there was a particular reason to mention it. Missions involving all men have been reported before even if they're reported as all-male crews per se. Where are the objections in those cases? Is the problem really that the gender of all-male crews aren't regularly reported? My point is that resentment and bitterness doesn't come f... (rest of com
4/3/2011 4:55:01 PM ET I assure that the soldiers in Kunar that they are supporting could care less about the gender of the flight crew and who prepped the aircraft. They have alredy sustained too many US casualites in that operation and the all female pilots probably returned with empty bomb racks. I for one salute their service and thank them for the enemy fighters they have suppresed for us troops on the ground.
boots on the ground, Afghanistan
4/3/2011 2:26:00 PM ET I think this is a powerful moment for women everywhere. But I think there is a second good that can come from this. Do you think politicians would get us involved in wars that are none of our business if more and more women were involved in the combat missions where they would be at risk? I think letting women put their lives on the line might help those idiots on the Hill think twice before declaring war in the name of Oil and Christianity. I think these women are awesome -- way tougher stuff than I'm made of, that's for sure!
Matthew, Washington DC
4/3/2011 1:55:17 AM ET As long as we continue to have such things as this or that history month, whether it involves race or gender, we will NEVER move forward. Funny thing is, the AF preaches about total equality yet they highlight such a thing as this article. Like the Lt. Col. below said, why should it matter whether they were male, female, black, white, hispanic, etc? It's about getting the mission done and always should be. If we had a white history month or male history month that would be utter discrimination - would it not?
SJ, Central FL
4/2/2011 12:03:22 PM ET It wasn't possible 11 years ago because no single squadron had four females in it. Maybe one or two. You all forget that while people in the military don't care who's male and who's female, there are plenty of people reading this article who get inspiration from it. This article was for them, not for the women it was about. And for JD, you realize they all wear flashlights on their zippers because there's no where esle to put it in a fighter cockpit and no other way to see mission products at night. And they only do it for combat missions. Lives are at stake after all.
female pilot, CO
4/1/2011 5:51:03 PM ET So when did the SECAF or CSAF, the CJCS or the SOD for that matter, get permission to overstep federal law and send females into combat? It might be their preference and it certainly is great press when females are taking risks and not being shot at and killed. However, the American people are not ready for females going into combat nor do we publish it when females are raped repeatedly like that CBC reporter in Egypt. Yes, females are capable but that's not the issue. For those citizens who are Bible-believing Jews and Christians or Koran-believing Muslims, it is a man's responsibility to defend our country.
JC, Wash DC. Area
4/1/2011 3:32:59 PM ET Yawn
Brett, Las Vegas
4/1/2011 2:22:29 PM ET They were so proud of the all female mission they made sure their ground support team was included in the picture. So, were the intel, life support, fuels techs, munitions techs, air traffic controllers, etc., all female? I'm just saying there's more to it than crew chiefs and pilots. Kind of a bold claim to say it was all female from tasking to completion. And this wasn't possible 11 years ago...what kind of statement is that? I'm pretty sure there were female pilots, planners and maintainers then - it's not like you're talking about 1970. Flying CAS in a warzone is not a time to make a historical statement; not saying you didn't do a good job, but lives are at stake.
4/1/2011 2:07:31 PM ET Ret MSgt - OIF Vet Eglin Maybe you can elaborate on your comment. Is not the mission what's really important? Who does it is really trivial...in my point. Where are you catching attitude on that comment
Lt Col, Pentagon
4/1/2011 2:06:02 PM ET Ridiculous - this is sexism. If it was something celebrating an all male accomplishment it would be sexist. I thought we were not supposed to single people out for the gender, race, religion, etc.
SSgt TC, Hill AFB
4/1/2011 2:05:50 PM ET I agree with LtCol Pentagon. Let's just get the job done. Who cares if it is men women or monkeys flying the mission as long as the job gets done. Once the job is done all of our MEN AND WOMEN and chimps of the U.S. Armed Forces will be able to come back home where they belong.
4/1/2011 1:05:41 PM ET Coffee Maker...get over it. These were all FEMALE crews. Things like not wearing the uniform correctly don't matter. After all they are WOMEN pilots. Uniform regulation don't apply.
4/1/2011 12:35:21 PM ET To all of you negative Nancies... We are ALL Airmen. But that one is more special because of their gender and that one there is even more specialerer because of their race and that one over there is even more specialererer because they are not a caucasion hetero sexual male doing their sworn duties. Give me a break. Want equality? Quit creating a divide.
4/1/2011 12:29:15 PM ET For the Lt Col from Pentagon and Chris from Louisiana...If you read the line While Dudette 07 was set up to as an all female mission in honor of Women's History Month you will see that is was set up ON PURPOSE and it was to honor women in the armed forces. You should be proud of this milestone and the fact we are integrated enough to do something like this.
4/1/2011 11:49:48 AM ET Glad to see they finally authorized the flashlight attached to the flightsuit zipper....
Coffee Maker, Macdill
4/1/2011 11:11:00 AM ET Notice one line in the story While Dudette 07 was set up as an all female mission in honor of Women's History Month. So this was a set up mission in order to create a news story in support of a particular initiative that had nothing to do with the overall mission in Afghanistan. The individuals were selected for this particular mission based solely on the fact they are women. When will these types of media circuses stop? Spend more time just getting the job done and less time worrying about who is doing what and how can we support a particular agenda.
Jerry , Oklahoma
4/1/2011 10:46:01 AM ET Chris, read. It states that she was the FIRST women to fly the F-15E and to graduate, not the first women to ever fly. Lt Col Pentagon, quit being so male shovenistic about this article. This is and will be a part of history forever even after you and I pass on. There has been so many history changes, like the first BLACK president. Are you going to say something about that? I don't think so. Yes this is an integrated Military. Please people, get a grip.
4/1/2011 10:34:19 AM ET This may be a uniquely scheduled mission with all women and it still shows the US Air Force is still the most capable air force in the world. However, the picture of just the aircrew continues to overshadow the team effort of the mission. The maintainers once again are left out is some way and should have been in the group photo.
4/1/2011 10:19:46 AM ET @Lt Col Pentagon Nice attitude from an officer. I bet you instill a lot of espirit de corps in your unit. For the women involved - great job Pray for your safe-keeping and all of our Airmen return home safe.
Ret MSgt - OIF Vet, Eglin
4/1/2011 10:01:32 AM ET What's next? All gay crew flys a mission, followed by an all divorced catholic crew refueled by a mixed race crew? Come on AF - write a story that does not detail age, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation for once. Of course then there would be much less to report. Politically Correct Corporate AF at its best.
Glda to be Retired, Ohio
4/1/2011 7:31:01 AM ET I understand the intent, but in reality is this the right approach/message to be sending? Women and men are separate? Whether the sortie was all men all women or mixed, does it really matter? Let just get-it done.
Lt Col, Pentagon
4/1/2011 7:27:41 AM ET You GO girls How awesome
DoD Woman, New York
4/1/2011 1:19:25 AM ET I remember in the 1960s when women first began to come on the flight line. There were a few assistant crew chiefs who were women. They had VERY heavy tool boxes to lift and carry. Within a week or two we began to notice a new sound we had not heard before. The women had put skate wheels under their tool boxes and pulled them behind them. Everybody laughed and laughed. But within a few months EVERYBODY had mounted their tool boxes on wheels and pulled them around the flight line. Women had arrived.
John Womack, Hickory NC
4/1/2011 12:19:24 AM ET Rock on ladies! 'Well done' on all your achievements and the incredibly hard work that has gotten you where you are today. We're proud of all of you but especially Maj. Mau. Love from Aunt Deborah and Matthew - just two members of your fan club!
Deborah Callahan, New Zealand
3/31/2011 8:35:00 PM ET So females have been flying F-15s for upwards of 20 years and things like this are still a big deal? Moreover do mission planners go out of their way to orchestrate things like this or did the all-female aircrew happen by accident? Going into harms way is noteworthy in and of itself. I don't see any reason why in an integrated Air Force we still need to make gender a noteworthy element.