Lt. Kendra WilliamsPilot : F/A-18 Hornet First female pilot in combat
Female Flies F/A-18 Hornet into combat over Iraq
Rick Martin/Patricia Frost
During Operation Desert Fox last month Navy Lt. Kendra Williams, flew her Boeing F/A-18 over Iraq as part of the attack force that launched from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise CVN65 in the Arabian Gulf. Lieutenant Williams was among the first group of women who trained for fighter aircraft duty. She graduated from jet training at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas in 1997.
"Women have only been in combat aviation a few years," she said. "It's going to take time for people to adjust."Female pilots have been flying Navy F/A-18s since the mid-1990s and have flown patrol missions over Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch. Women have been flying U.S. military helicopters since 1973.
Alaskan is first female pilot in combat
ABOARD THE USS ENTERPRISE - The word raced from sailor to sailor like gossip around the office water cooler.
She is just 26. She beat her squadron commander into battle. She has become the first female fighter pilot to deliver a payload of missiles and laser-guided bombs in combat.
1998 First U.S. female combat pilot to bomb an enemy target. On Dec. 16, Lt. Kendra Williams, USN, bombed enemy targets over Iraq during Operation Desert Fox.Wary of - but not oblivious to - her status, Lt. Kendra Williams dug into a plate of fried chicken and politely attempted to fend off fame.
''I was just doing my job,'' said Williams, one of 18 pilots in the ''Gunslingers'' F/A-18 squadron out of Jacksonville, Fla. ''I was nervous at first. It wasn't real until I was airborne.''
Williams was in the first wave of strikes against Iraq last Wednesday, which consisted of 30 fighter aircraft.
The moonless midnight mission lasted about two hours.
After being debriefed, Williams e-mailed friends and family before turning in at 5 a.m.
''It was an interesting night,'' she wrote. Hours later she got two dozen responses, including a note from her proud parents.
The USS Enterprise is home to two other female pilots who command F/A-18s, which are single-seat, state of aviation art fighter jets stuffed with enough high-tech radar and weapons systems to make a computer nerd dizzy.
Just as male fighter pilots come in many shapes, Williams fits no stereotype. She stands about 5-foot-4 and wears her hair in a bushy brown bob. ''I'm one of the guys to some pilots, a younger sister to others,'' she said. ''I really just don't want to stand out.''
Other Gunslingers offered heartfelt but reserved praise for her historic accomplishment.
''I'm glad she had the opportunity,'' said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Fenton, 34, who also flew that first night. ''To us she is just another pilot, one we'd send on any mission we would go on ourselves.''
Polishing off her fried chicken, Williams had only one thing to add: ''I'm ready to do it again.''
By Marco R. della Cava, USA TODAY
THE FIRST WOMAN TO FLY AND FIRE MISSILES IN COMBAT
WOMEN WERE AT THE CONTROLS OF SOME OF THE WARPLANES THAT ATTACKED IRAQ DURING "OPERATION DESERT FOX." PENTAGON OFFICIALS SAY IT APPEARS TO BE THE FIRST TIME U-S WOMEN HAVE FIRED MISSILES AND DROPPED BOMBS IN COMBAT. V-O-A'S JIM RANDLE REPORTS, BOTH PILOTS AND GENERALS GREETED THIS BIT OF MILITARY HISTORY WITH A SHRUG.
REPORTS FROM THE CARRIER U-S-S ENTERPRISE SAY F-18 PILOT KENDRA WILLIAMS, A LIEUTENANT, WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO FLY AND FIRE MISSILES IN COMBAT. OFFICIALS SAY LT. WILLIAMS FLEW ONE OF 30 PLANES IN THE FIRST WAVE OF AIR STRIKES LAST WEDNESDAY NIGHT.
SHE IS ONE OF THREE WOMEN WHO FLY THE F-A-18 ON THE ENTERPRISE. THERE ARE 277 FEMALE PILOTS IN THE NAVY, BUT ONLY 14 WOMEN FLY THE F-18 FIGHTER BOMBER.
TWENTY-SIX YEAR OLD LT. WILLIAMS GOT A LOVE OF FLYING FROM HER FATHER, WHO ALSO FLEW JET FIGHTERS. HE LET HER TAKE THE CONTROLS OF A SMALL PROPELLER PLANE WHEN SHE WAS ONLY TEN YEARS OLD. IN A NEWSPAPER INTERVIEW, LT. WILLIAMS SAYS SHE WAS A LITTLE NERVOUS FLYING IN COMBAT FOR THE FIRST TIME. BUT INSISTS SHE WAS "JUST DOING HER JOB."
THE U-S AIR FORCE SAYS FIRST LIEUTENANT CHERYL LAMOUREUX BECAME THE FIRST WOMEN ON A COMBAT AIR MISSION IN THAT SERVICE. SHE IS A CREW MEMBER ON A B-52 THAT FIRED CRUISE MISSILES AT TARGETS IN IRAQ.
LORY MANNING, OF THE WOMEN'S RESEARCH AND EDUCATION INSTITUTE IN WASHINGTON, SAYS AFTER CONGRESS CHANGED LAWS BARRING WOMEN FROM FLYING WARPLANES, IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE WOMEN FOUND THEMSELVES IN FRONT LINE JETS.
WOMEN HAVE BEEN FLYING THESE AIRCRAFT FOR ABOUT FIVE YEARS NOW, AND THEY'VE CERTAINLY FIRED THESE MISSILES IN TRAINING AND THAT SORT OF THING. BUT IT'S THE FIRST TIME THEY'VE FIRED THEM IN A REAL ACTION.MS. MANNING IS A RETIRED U-S NAVY CAPTAIN WHO SPENT MORE THAN 25 YEARS IN THE SERVICE. HER CAREER SHOWS HOW MUCH OPPORTUNITIES AND RISKS HAVE INCREASED FOR WOMEN IN THE SERVICES. WHEN SHE JOINED THE NAVY, WOMEN COULD NOT ATTEND CLASSES AT THE SERVICE ACADEMIES, AND WERE BARRED FROM JOBS AT SEA, IN GROUND COMBAT OR IN THE AIR.
THE MAN WHO COMMANDED OPERATION DESERT FOX, MARINE GENERAL ANTHONY ZINNI, SAYS THE REMARKABLE THING ABOUT WOMEN FLYING IN COMBAT IS JUST HOW UNREMARKABLE IT NOW SEEMS.
SOMEBODY ASKED ME TODAY HOW MANY FEMALE PILOTS AND NAVIGATORS (WE HAVE). I HAVE NO IDEA. I CAN'T FIND ANYBODY THAT COUNTS (THEM ANYMORE). SO IF YOU WANT A SIGN OF THE TIMES, THERE IT IS.. PENTAGON OFFICIALS SAY WOMEN MAKE UP ABOUT 14 PERCENT OF THE OVERALL U-S FORCES. (SIGNED).