Women Military Aviators : Further Reading : USA

Women Military Aviators

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We celebrate the history of women in military aviation.
We mentor current and future women military aviators.
We support the future of women military aviators through action.

Our Mission
To promote and preserve the historical, educational and literary role of women in the military.

Our Profile
This is the official website for Women Military Aviators (WMA). A non-profit corporation formed in 1978 to promote and preserve for historical, educational and literary purposes the role of women pilots, navigators, and aircrew members in the service of their country during times of war and peace. ...more

Women in the US Navy


The following is drawn from Crossed Currents: Navy Women from WWII to Tailhook by Jean Ebbert and Marie-Beth Hall. Brassey's, Inc., 1993.


26,000 WAVES serve in naval aviation.

The WASPs or Women's Airforce Service Pilots ferried 12,650 fighter and bomber planes all over the US and Canada, and overseas when needed, instructed Air Corps pilots, and towed targets for combat pilots to practice shooting at. The record shows their accident rate was about the same as men's.


Lower than expected turn-out of women personnel prompts Secretary of Defense George Marshall to convene a group of distinguished civilian women to consider what might be done to improve female recruitment. The group is named the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS) and still exists today.


Congress opens the path for women to become admirals.

Jun. 1970

Zumwalt becomes CNO at a time when ERA seems likely to pass, and he is prepared to make changes accordingly. As part of a larger effort to update personnel policies, he convenes two groups of women in 1971 who conclude that female talent is being underutilized.

Feb. 1972

NavSec John Warner authorizes a pilot program providing Navy scholarships (NROTC) for 17 women.

Aug. 1972

Zumwalt issues Z-116, one of many Z-grams, i.e. messages from the CNO to the entire Navy on policy. The measure is designed to give women greater opportunity and thus improve retention at a time when the Navy was moving to an all-volunteer force. Z-116 informed all hands that efforts would be made to "eliminate any disadvantage to women resulting from either legal or attitudinal restrictions." Actions taken included: women were authorized limited entry to all ratings; women were assigned to the USS Sanctuary, a noncombatant; the NROTC program would be opened to women in 1974; qualified women would be considered for promotion to the rank of rear admiral; women could be selected for study at the joint-service colleges.

Oct. 1972

John Warner announces the Navy will soon open flight training program to women. ,,,more

Women Military Aviators are Flying Combat Missions for the First Time
Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12/19-20/1998

"For the first time, U.S. women military aviators are flying combat missions as Operation Desert Fox continues against Iraq. Several dozens of them are flying from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and USS Carl Vinson, and others* are operating with Air Force units stationed in the Persian Gulf region, officials said.

*USS Theodore Roosevelt ? [Ed.]

The Navy fliers include four EA-6B crew members from Whidbey Island NAS assigned to squadrons abroad the two carriers, said Capt. John Cryer, commander of the Pacific Fleet Electronic Combat Wing at the Oak Harbor, WA, base. They include one pilot and three electronic countermeasure officers who operate the Prowler aircraft's powerful jamming gear, he said. 'This is the first time where women launched and fired weapons,' said one Pentagon Navy official, who asked that his name not be used. ...more

Women are among the most senior Navy pilots on US aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf

What may not be as publicized as some of these other issues is that women are at the controls of some of the war planes hitting targets in Afghanistan. "Women are among the most senior Navy pilots on US aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, and some have patrolled the "No Fly Zone" over southern Iraq and dropped bombs on Bosnia. Several female pilots are stationed aboard the USS Carl Vinson and have participated in air strikes against the Taliban."

Female pilots earning respect in Gulf combat roles

CNN's Tom Mintier reports from aboard USS Carl Vinson

References to Lts. Cori Parker and Holly Rosenberg

USS CARL VINSON, Persian Gulf (CNN) -- Only within the past five years has the U.S. military allowed women to serve as pilots or crew members on airplanes in combat. But a close-up look at the professional lives of two female Navy warplane pilots on the USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf suggests that they are earning the respect of their male peers.

As Lt. Cori Parker prepares for work, she flips through a thick stack of documents. "Looks like a good jet," she says. Then a sailor helps Parker buckle up a jumble of straps and harnesses on her flight suit. "It's a little ritual we go through every time we go fly," she said. At 28, the fighter pilot has become one of fewer than 100 women flying in combat situations. "It was a big shock at first, and I felt like an alien in this environment; but you get used to it," she said.

There were no women like Parker in the Navy until 1994, when the secretary of defense lifted the restriction on women in combat. While she says she is accepted by her male peers, Parker says being female in her profession gives her a certain perspective. "I think when more women do this it won't be as big a deal, but for now it's going to take awhile before that happens. I really try to encourage women to do this because it's exciting and fulfilling," she says.

Lt. Holly Rosenberg is an "electronic countermeasures" officer in the same fighter squadron as Parker. "This has always been deemed a man's world and even more so than the corporate world, just by the nature of what we do, our business. Most ships in the Navy now have women on board, not only as fighter pilots but in most jobs once held only by men. Many female sailors say integration will be complete only when people stop paying attention to them, when their numbers approach half those on a ship. That could take another 10 or 15 years.

Navy had different standards for women pilots

References to Lts. Carey Lohrenz, Loree Hirschman and Kara Hultgreen (deceased, 10,1984)

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, June 9, 1997

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Women were treated differently from men in one of the Navy's first units to include female fighter pilots, Pentagon sources, citing an unreleased internal report, told CNN.

The Navy's Inspector General found no intentional discrimination, but criticized how the integration of women was handled in Carrier Air Wing 11, a San Diego-based aircraft carrier unit, sources said.

"I think the biggest concern among the men was whether or not the women would meet the standards -- the same standards that they were meeting," said Lt. Loree Hirschman, an S-3 Viking pilot.

A fatal accident three years ago sparked charges from some quarters that female pilots were being pushed into the cockpit before they were ready. As a result, critics said, Lt. Kara Hultgreen died in October 1994 after being unable to land her F-14 with a stalled engine safely on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln.

The five women flying fighter planes on that maiden voyage did seem to be struggling -- not only did Hultgreen die, but three others were grounded for poor flying, including the only other F-14 pilot, Lt. Carey Lohrenz.

Women in the military no longer remarkable

By Lisa Hoffman, Jan. 11, 2002, Scripps Howard News Service

A female pilot who goes by the call sign "Hogg" pilots a B-1B bomber on grueling 15-hour combat sorties, dropping 2,000-pound explosives on enemy targets in Afghanistan.

Air Force Maj. Kim Bentoler, one of the first women graduates of the Air Force Academy, flies huge KC-135 refueling tankers, indispensable aircraft for the long-distance bombing runs that are the hallmark of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Marine crew chief Cpl. Jennifer Wiese manned the machine gun on her Super Stallion helicopter's flights to the Marines' Camp Rhino in southern Afghanistan.

In this war, these women and dozens of others are flying F-14 warplanes, crewing aircraft carriers and generally filling far more combat positions than ever before - and doing so with little of the fanfare or scrutiny that met females in uniform during the Persian Gulf War a decade ago.

"The news about military women in the Afghan campaign is that they're not newsworthy," Joshua Goldstein, an international-relations professor at American University in Washington and an expert on gender and the military, wrote Thursday.

Wednesday brought the first death of a servicewoman in the war, when the KC-130 aircraft carrying Marine Sgt. Jeannette Winters, 25, and six male Marines crashed into a mountain in Pakistan, killing all aboard.

But it didn't bring the same sort of gender-focused spotlight that shined on female fatalities in the1990-91 war with Iraq. That lack of special attention delights advocates of women in the military.

"That's exactly the way women want it. They want to be looked at as just another soldier, sailor, airman or Marine," said retired Navy Capt. Georgia Sadler. "That's been the whole point."

The Pentagon has no figures on how many of the nation's 200,000 active-duty servicewomen have been deployed in the overseas war on terrorism that began Oct. 7. In all, about 5,000 U.S. troops are currently involved in the four-month-old operation. The military says there is no reason to compile separate statistics, because they have little bearing on the task at hand.

"Women are such a part of the team now that it's unremarkable," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Cassella said.

It wasn't always thus. During Operations Desert Shield and Storm, about 37,000 women served alongside about 500,000 U.S. men. Thirteen women were killed and two became prisoners. The captures and deaths triggered a national debate on the role of women at war.

Since then, the ranks of uniformed women have grown from 12 percent of the nation's 1.4 million-person military to about 15 percent. In all, about 15 percent of the Army, 13 percent of the Navy, 19 percent of the Air Force and 6 percent of the Marines are women.

Since the Persian Gulf War, scores of previously shut doors have been pried open for women. In 1993 and 1994, the Clinton administration allowed women to become combat aviators and serve aboard warships. Now, about 91 percent of the Army's jobs and 99 percent of the Air Force's jobs are open to women. The Navy and Marines continue to have more restrictions.

But even though more avenues are open, the more elite positions still are overwhelmingly held by men. The Air Force, for example, has just 16 female bomber pilots out of a total of 759, while just 43 of the service's 3,500 fighter pilots are women.

For example, on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, home to many of the warplanes fighting the Afghanistan war from the Arabian Sea, there are only two female combat pilots. The overall crew of 5,600 includes about 700 women.

Women are still excluded from front-line combat duty, such as serving in the infantry, field artillery or tanks, or as special operations commandoes. They also are barred from submarines.

The job they are doing in Enduring Freedom so far is drawing little flak. The only public flap to date came when some women sailors on the Roosevelt expressed annoyance that Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders had been recruited to entertain those on the carrier, while no equivalent male entertainers had been invited.

Even those who have been critical of permitting women to serve in all corners of the military say they have detected no major problems emanating from their presence up to now.

"They seem to be serving very well," said Elaine Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness, who blasted the Clinton administration for "social engineering" by pushing unqualified women into fighter pilot or other roles.

In contrast, the current crop of women in the cockpit appear to be "competent and well qualified and, by all accounts, doing well," Donnelly said.

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