HomeNewsArticle Display

Woman aviator helps make history

REESE AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- As a captain in 1980, Mary Kay Higgins became one of the first women to earn both pilot and navigator ratings. Scheduled to retire June 1, Colonel Higgins is currently chief of the operations and plans division in the office of the Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon.  (Courtesy photo)

REESE AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- As a captain in 1980, Mary Kay Higgins became one of the first women to earn both pilot and navigator ratings. Scheduled to retire June 1, Colonel Higgins is currently chief of the operations and plans division in the office of the Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon. (Courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Even before Women’s History Month became a national event in 1987, Col. Mary Kay Higgins was well on her way to making history.

As a captain in 1980, Mary Kay Higgins became one of the first woman to earn both pilot and navigator ratings.

"My initial plans were to get as close to flying as I could," said Colonel Higgins, who is now chief of the operations and plans division in the office of the Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon. "And because women could not fly in the Air Force in 1974, I asked for duty as an air control officer."

Although Women's Airforce Service Pilots flew missions ferrying aircraft during World War II, it was not until May 1976 that the Air Force first published its plan for training female navigators with their male counterparts. Colonel Higgins and five others were chosen as the first women to begin Undergraduate Navigator Training on March 10, 1977.

"Allowing women to enter navigator training was an important first step toward integrating them into today's combat-flying missions," said Dr. Kenneth C. Kan, a historian for Air Force Reserve Command headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Colonel Higgins earned top graduate honors and received her navigator wings Oct. 12, 1977. She was assigned to an aircrew aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker performing air refueling missions with Strategic Air Command's 380th Air Refueling Squadron at Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y.

"I enjoyed being a navigator because it came kind of naturally to me, so I was very good at it," she said.

As a licensed private pilot, Colonel Higgins dreamed of becoming an Air Force pilot. In June 1980, she got her chance to fulfill this dream when she entered Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese AFB, Texas.

"With respect to changes for women, I've noticed many," she said. "I remember being stationed at Offutt AFB [Neb.] in the early 1980s and there was one female colonel, a big deal at that time. Also the lifting of the combat restriction on women in the early 1990s was another significant change."

Colonel Higgins served on active duty for 17 years before taking a five and a half year break to pursue a religious calling. She then joined the Air Force Reserve in 1997.

Today, Air Force Reserve Command has about 75,800 reservists who train and deploy regularly. Of that number, more than 23 percent are women. Of the more than 3,575 aircrew members in the Reserve, 162 are women serving as pilots, navigators and air weapons controllers.

Besides being a pilot, navigator and air traffic control officer, Colonel Higgins has served as a scientific analyst, acquisition manager and air staff planner.

"After Sept. 11, my division's responsibilities on the Air Force Crisis Action Team presented the largest challenge that I had ever faced," she said. "Enormously talented and dedicated people on my staff, and volunteers from all over, rose to the challenge and ensured that the Air Force Reserve was able to efficiently provide tens of thousands of members to prosecute the war on terror."

After 30 years of service, Colonel Higgins plans to retire June 1. (Courtesy of AFRC News Service and Senior Airman Stephanie Witty)

Engage

Twitter
"Multi-capable #Airmen is a series of training events designed to engage Airmen in developing a combat skillset out… https://t.co/7b4VFMb9cm
Twitter
"I'm probably not the first to be qualified, but the first to have the opportunity." @GenCQBrownJr sat down with… https://t.co/vh14QdB6sp
Twitter
#CitizenAirmen from the 30th Aerial Port Squadron & @AFRC_433, loaded supplies onto a C-5 Galaxy, to deliver suppli… https://t.co/MDSVEtQbZm
Twitter
.@59_MDW medics assisted a hospital in #Honduras during Exercise Resolute Sentinel 21, where they performed life-ch… https://t.co/DRGyg4NOhL
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: A/SecAF Roth at today's SAC-D hearing: "Our nation’s competitive strategic advantage relies on air and space superiority…
Twitter
To maintain open lines of communication with #AirForce allies and African partners, CMSgt Brion Blais, @HQUSAFEAFAFhttps://t.co/4nGOtWJnLp
Twitter
“I can help [#Airmen] and prepare them for the challenges they’ll face as NCO’s; everything I’ve encountered has pr… https://t.co/YT3x1UjGFU
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: A/SecAF Roth is speaking now on the future capabilities the Department requires to protect the Nation--including the Gro…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense is asking A/SecAF Roth about investments to modernize the @USAirForce
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth’s comments today while addressing the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subc…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth’s comments today while addressing the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subc…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth’s comments today while addressing the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subc…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth’s comments today while addressing the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subc…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth’s comments today while addressing the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subc…
Twitter
RT @Travis60AMW: An honor to host Ambassador Islam and show our aerial port in real time as #TeamTravis palletized and loaded critical supp…
Twitter
“We’re much stronger when partnering and working together. It’s a partnership and alliance that we need to continue… https://t.co/y7JxcTPlhK
Twitter
.@124FighterWing Tactical Air Control Party #Airmen participated in a field training exercise in Prairie, Idaho. Th… https://t.co/Eg9z61IICI
Twitter
24 students were selected for the inaugural #AimHigh Flight Academy hosted by @usaf_inspire. They will immerse into… https://t.co/2r4OuyxHRW
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,346,740
Follow Us