Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Honoring women warriors of past, present

(From Left), Lt. Col. Laurie Richter, Eleanor Gunderson, Merilys Brown, Helen Glass, Chief Master Sgt. Anne Reddish, Vicky McManaman and Lt. Col Andra Kniep pose for a group photo after the Women's History month Q & A Panel event at the Mirage Club here March 7. The women spoke of their experiences and the obstacles faced while serving in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jerilyn Quintanilla) Hi-res

by Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/15/2011 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Desert Lightning Team members kicked off the beginning of March Women's History Month by hosting a question and answer panel of female military members at the Mirage Club here March 7.

The seven distinguished guests shared a wealth of information and experiences from wars both past and present. These women are legends and heroes to many. They are battle hardened combat vets that experienced the worst that humanity had to offer, and helped pave the way for women in the military. Some of them fought in World War II, while others are still in active duty and continue to fight in current military conflicts.

The event started out with an introduction of each panel member.

Eleanor Gunderson was a Women's Air Force Service Pilot member during World War II. The WASP program was formed in 1943 to allow qualified female aviators to assist the Air Transport Command in ferrying aircrafts from factories to their final destination. In 1944, Mrs. Gunderson was invited by Jacqueline Cochran, the Director of WASP, to be the only female pilot out of 1102 members to fly aircrafts for the Army and serve during World War II.

Merilys Brown was a nurse in the Army Air Corps during World War II. She was one of a few women to set foot on Omaha Beach just a few days after the D-Day invasion in June 1944. Mrs. Brown was stationed at Prestwick's Bed Field Hospital in Scotland where she helped tend to more than 4,700 patients a day.

Helen Glass enlisted in the Navy on her 20th birthday, in March of 1943. During this time, females in the Navy were referred to as WAVES, which stands for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services. During this time, the majority of the jobs available to women were clerical and medical professions. Mrs. Glass, however, was an exception. Because her mechanical scores were so high, the Navy made her a machinist on the Hellcat and Wildcat fighter aircrafts.

Vicky McManaman was a member of a program established in the 1970's that allowed women to be placed in limited roles in the Air Force. The program was Women in the Air Force, or WAF. During her time in WAF, Ms. McManaman saw many changes in the Air Force first hand, specifically changes made to the women's dress uniform. Up until 1976, women wore the men's service dress.

Chief Master Sgt. Anne Reddish, 355th Fighter Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron, enlisted in the Air Force in 1988 and was stationed at Howard AFB, Panama. She has held multiple positions in the fuels career field and is one out of three females to achieve the rank of Chief Master Sgt. in said field.

A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology ROTC program, Lt. Col. Laurie Richter, commander of the 355th Civil Engineer Squadron, joined the Air Force in 1994. She came in as a civil engineer officer, and has held many different positions in the civil engineering field at base, MAJCOM and Air Staff levels. Colonel Richter is also an Explosive Ordinance Disposal officer. In the EOD officer career field, less than one percent are female.

The last panel member was Lt. Col. Andra "Poptart" Kniep, commander of the 355th Operational Support Squadron. Colonel Kniep entered the Air Force in 1993 after earning her Bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Air Force Academy. She is a pilot who has flown more than 2,000 hours in multiple aircrafts, but mostly the A/OA-10. Colonel Kniep was the third female to fly the A-10 and has flown combat missions for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Southern Watch.

After a brief introduction about the panel members, the floor was open to questions from the audience. One of the first questions an audience member asked was directed toward Mrs. Gunderson.

"During your time, were there any female pilots that were killed?" the audience member asked. "And if so, were they awarded the same honors as male pilots?"

"Anyone that was killed didn't get any honors that males received," said Mrs. Gunderson. "Their families where told, come get your daughter, she's dead. If there wasn't enough money to send the deceased home, the rest of the girls would pitch in. It wasn't until last year when we received our medals, that the families of the women who were killed during and after training were given medals. For 30 years, we were written out of history completely, in any book in those days that told about World War II, there was no WASP."

Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Howard, 355th Fighter Wing command chief master sergeant, had a question for the active duty members of the panel.

"Obviously, female Airmen are still under-represented in the Air Force, with fighter pilots, one percent in Explosive Ordinance Disposal and three Petroleum Oils and Lubricants chiefs, what do you feel are the next career fields that women should be able to do?," asked Chief Howard.

"The only Air Force Specialty Code's that women are prohibited from doing are traditional battlefield Airmen such as, Pararescuemen, Combat Controllers, Tactical Air Control Party and combat weather," said Col. Richter. "To me, that's the next step. Get rid of the term battlefield Airmen and consider us all Airmen because we're all at combat. So if you set a standard, whether physical or sometimes emotional standard in a career field and women can pass it, let them join."

One of the last questions for the day was directed toward Colonel Kniep. An audience member asked if she was denied the chance to fly a combat plane, would she still be in the Air Force today.

"When push comes to shove, I raised my right hand to join the Air Force," said Colonel Kniep. "I didn't join an A-10 squadron, I didn't join a fighter pilots association, I joined the Air Force. The one thing that keeps me in the Air Force isn't flying the A-10; it's the desire to serve. Looking around at all of you and the people that I admire most that have gone before me, and realize that if they can do it and if they can get up every morning and put on the uniform, then so can I and they inspire me. That's why I keep doing it and it has nothing to do with the airplane I fly."

After the question and answer event was over, each speaker received a bouquet of flowers and a book entitled 'Arizona, The Beauty of it All' signed by Col. John Cherrey, 355th Fighter Wing Commander.

"For me, it's overwhelming to have these women sit beside you and tell you all this history about what they've gone through to get to where they are today," said MSgt. Roxanne McHugh, 355th Fighter Wing superintendant of plans and programs, and organizer of the event.

"It's important to have events like this and to celebrate Women's History because we need to show female Airmen, this is where we've been, this is where we are now and this is where we're going," said Sergeant McHugh. "Without them, we wouldn't have that past, present and future. It's not just the females; it's the males as well. It's important as men to know the trials and tribulations that women have gone through throughout history so they can educate themselves and future Airmen to come."


Please note:
According to this official USAF news article, Lt. Col Andra Kniep was the third female to fly the A-10 and has flown combat missions for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Southern Watch. I just remember her name and I will try my archives to post some older stuff about female "Hog" pilots.

First results:

Lt. Col. Andra Kniep

Lt. Col. Andra Kniep (right) receives the 355th Operations Support Squadron guidon from Col. Edward A. Kostelnik Jr., 355th Operations Group commander, during a change-of-command ceremony here July 16, 2010. Prior to assuming command of the 355th OSS, Colonel Kniep was director of operations for the 357th Fighter Squadron here at Davis-Monthan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jerilyn Quintanilla) Hi-res

See: 355th Operations Support Squadron changes command

From the DFCS News, newspaper of The Distinguished Flying Cross Society, Winter 2010 public online PDF issue:

The DFCS 2010 Convention, held in Riverside, CA, October 24-27, 2010, was deemed a success by the many members who attended. [...]

The second event of the day was a dinner honoring "Women in Aviation" at the Hap Arnold Club on the March ARB. The first Guest Speaker, Margo de Moss, who was a WASP, described the long-delayed honor bestowed on women this year in Washington, DC. She was followed by our Principal Guest Speaker, LtCol Andra Kniep USAF. Andra is an A-10 "Warthog pilot", mother of twin 4-year-old boys, and a DFCS member who was awarded two DFC's in two days in Afghanistan. Her presentation (slides and video) about her career as a pilot, wife, mother and the actions entailed in her being awarded two DFC's had the audience spellbound. When she was finished, the audience gave Andra a standing ovation and a second standing ovation when the "Q&A" period ended. Stationed in Tucson with her husband, also an A-10 pilot, she is a superb example of what makes the current generation of warriors so great. [...]

* * *

The President of the United States takes great pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Andra V.P. Kniep for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an A/OA-10 Forward Air Control-Airborne and Flight Lead, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 332d Air Expeditionary Group, on 5 March 2002. On that date, flying as Cherry 01, her professional skill and airmanship enabled her to successfully engage and destroy enemy vehicles and an infantry force concentration while working in close proximity to friendly ground forces. After two air refuelings and a 4.5-hour deployment sortie to the target area, Captain Kniep spent the first hour on station controlling strike and bomber aircraft and deconflicting close air support aircraft from unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft bombing preplanned targets. The airborne command and control director tasked Captain Kniep to rendezvous with an unmanned aerial vehicle with eyes on enemy troops. She skill-fully used night vision devices with the unmanned aerial vehicle's night marker to identify vehicles and infantry in a network of steep ravines, inaccessible to attack except on a narrow axis. Noting that the target area was only 2 kilometers from friendly troops, Captain Kniep fired a marking rocket, confirming the target for the unmanned aerial vehicle controller and her wing man. She then maneuvered her wingman into position to drop two bombs and then followed him with two of her own 500-pound bombs. Both pilots scored direct hits on the targets with numerous confirmed destroyed enemy vehicles and infantry casualties. Captain Kniep then refueled again and led her flight to a night recovery at a remote, unfamiliar, classified location to complete the 7.9-hour deployment sortie. By inflicting heavy losses on Taliban and al Queda forces, Captain Kniep saved coalition lives and advanced the United States goals in the war on terrorism. The professional competence, aerial skill and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Kniep reflect great credit upon herself and the United States Air Force.

* * *

The President of the United States takes great pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Andra V.P. Kniep for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as A/OA-10 Forward Air Control-Airborne and Flight Lead, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 332d Air Expeditionary Group, on 6 March 2002. On that date, flying as Sandy 03, her professional skill and airmanship enabled her to take control of the Operation Anaconda airspace and direct devastating fires against enemy forces. Launching from an austere classified forward operating location, she took control of the entire area of responsibility when the airborne command and control aircraft went off station to refuel. Her keen situational awareness enabled her to establish a clear airspace plan to prevent fratricide between eleven strike aircraft and three unmanned aerial vehicles. Captain Kniep quickly realized that fighters operating in the target were unaware of B-52 and B-1 bomber preplanned targets. With superior airmanship, she deconflicted all aircraft and generated a plan for coalition bombers to attack their higher headquarters assigned targets and avoid ongoing close air support operations. Captain Kniep intuitively devised a communications plan to provide discreet communication between ground forward air controllers and their fighters while clearing other frequency for additional taskings. She skillfully controlled F-15E, F-16, B-1 and B-52 strikes employing scores of weapons to destroy a weapons cache, multiple vehicles and troop concentrations with punishing hits. These strikes enabled coalition forces to maintain offensive pressure on the enemy. Completing her control of the area, Captain Kniep located and escorted a friendly ground convoy of four vehicles out of the threat area and back to their base camp. Captain Kniep's superb control of a highly congested target area saved coalition lives and advanced the United States goals in the war on global terrorism. The professional competence, aerial skill and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Kniep reflect great credit upon herself and the United States Air Force.


Please note:
At that time, the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was originally deployed for Operation Southern Watch to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group at Ahmed Al-Jaber AB, Kuwait, later also involved in Operation Enduring Freedom. According to my own research work, the mentioned "classified location" was Shahbaz Air Base, Jacobabad, Pakistan, 28°16'37.32"N 68°27'05.04"E, called Jacobabad AB by the U.S. Military.

Maj. Kim Reed-Campbell

While flying a mission over Baghdad on April 7, 2003, her A-10 was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, rolled left, and pointed toward the ground. The A-10 sustained damage to one engine and to the redundant hydraulic systems, disabling the flight controls, landing gear and brakes, and horizontal stabilizer. However, Captain Campbell found that the manual flight controls still worked and she was able to fly her crippled A-10 back to base, 100 miles away. On the ground, an inspection of the aircraft revealed hundreds of holes in the airframe and that large sections of the stabilizer and hydraulic controls were missing.

DFC citation:
Captain Kim N. Campbell is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while participating in aerial flight as an A/OA-10 fighter pilot, 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 332d Expeditionary Operations Group, 332d Air Expeditionary Wing at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait on 7 April 2003. On that date, at North Baghdad Bridge, Iraq, flying as Yard 06, Captain Campbell's professional skill and airmanship directly contributed to the successful close air support of ground forces from the 3d Infantry Division and recovery of an A-10 with heavy battle damage. While ingressing her original target area, Captain Campbell was diverted to a troops-in-contact situation where enemy forces had positioned themselves within 400 meters of the advancing friendly forces and were successfully preventing the lead elements of the 3d Infantry Division from crossing the North Baghdad Bridge. Unable to eliminate the enemy without severe losses, the ground forward air controller had requested immediate close air support. After a quick situation update and target area study, Captain Campbell expertly employed 2.75 inch high explosive rockets on the enemy position that had been threatening the advancing forces, scoring a direct hit and silencing the opposition. During her recovery from the weapons delivery pass, a surface-to-air missile impacted the tail of Captain Campbell's aircraft. Immediately taking corrective action, she isolated the hydraulic systems and placed the A-10 into the manual reversion flight control mode of flight and prepared for the long and tenuous return flight to Kuwait. Captain Campbell's aviation prowess and coolness under pressure directly contributed to the successful completion of the critical mission and recovery of a valuable combat aircraft. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Captain Campbell reflect great credit upon herself and the United States Air Force.


Kim Campbell (pilot)

Lt. Col. Martha McSally


McSally was the first woman in the Air Force to fly a combat aircraft into enemy territory. In 1995 and 1996, she flew her A-10 Warthog jet 100 hours over southern Iraq enforcing the no-fly zone.

Female A-10 pilot takes command of fighter squadron
by Senior Airman Cat Casaigne
355th Wing Public Affairs

7/21/2004 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFPN) -- During a change of command ceremony July 19, Lt. Col. Martha McSally took command of the 354th Fighter Squadron, the only operational A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter squadron here.

In doing so, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Harvard graduate became the first woman to command an Air Force fighter squadron.

"There is no doubt in my mind that (Colonel McSally is) the perfect officer to take this command at this time," said Col. Steven Ruehl, 355th Operations Group commander, during the ceremony. "(She has) three attributes that I look for in a commander: commitment, integrity and experience. (Her) commitment is without a doubt the highest level of what I've seen."

Colonel McSalley said she looks forward to the challenges ahead of her, but she also looks forward to "the day when there are no questions in dealing with our gender and serving -- a time when we are just fighting side-by-side, and it's not a precedent."


1st Air Force female pilot in combat reflects on career
by Carl Bergquist
Air University Public Affairs

12/6/2006 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFPN) -- As she attends Air War College here, the first female pilot in the Department of Defense to fly in combat reflected on some of her career experiences so far.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, Lt. Col. Martha McSally is also the first female in the Air Force to serve as the commander of any combat aviation squadron, to include fighters and bombers.

"The first role of women as military flyers was during World War II as Women Airforce Service Pilots, an organization disbanded after the war," Colonel McSally said. "When women resumed flying in the Air Force, a law prohibited them from flying in combat," she said. "In 1984, I was attending the U.S. Air Force Academy and told my first flight instructor that I was going to be a fighter pilot. He just laughed, but after Congress repealed the prohibition law in 1991, and I was named as one of seven women who would be put through fighter training, he looked me up and said he was amazed I had accomplished my goal."

Colonel McSally was selected for fighter pilot school in 1993, but it was another year before she actually arrived. After completion of her training, she was deployed to Kuwait in January 1995.

"I was a young and new fighter pilot and here I was in Kuwait," she said. "On my first flight over Iraq, we were enforcing the no-fly zone, and as I crossed the Kuwait/Iraq border, I'll never forget the feeling I had that I had asked for this and now I was here."

In July 2004, she took command of the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. -- becoming the first woman to command a fighter squadron.

One of her most memorable missions was also the first time she deployed weapons in combat. Her squadron was called in to take out insurgents in very rugged terrain in Afghanistan, but the bad guys were surrounded by good guys.

"We needed to identify all the many friendly positions working with a controller on the ground. We got eyes on the area, and needed to then ensure we had the right target area, given the friendlies were so close and in multiple directions in a winding steep canyon," Colonel McSally said. "Friendlies were now climbing up the canyon to get away from the enemy and get outside the safe distance of our gun. I shot some rockets to confirm the enemy location, and we honed the target."

Then, things got even more complicated.

"On my last rocket pass, my heads up display failed with all of our computerized weapons sights. I had to rely on the very archaic backup called 'standby pipper,' which was a hard sight. I needed to quickly get ready to shoot the gun manually, where I had to be at an exact dive angle, airspeed, and altitude when opening fire in order to be accurate. We destroyed the enemy on several passes. We train for this type of malfunction, but I never would have imagined shooting the gun in standby pipper in combat like this."

Colonel McSally said the squadron won the 2005 Air Force Association's David C. Shilling award that is given for the best aerospace contribution to national defense.

"During the squadron's time in Afghanistan, we flew just short of 2,000 sorties, accumulated more than 7,000 combat flight hours, and expended more than 23,000 rounds of 30 mm ammunition," she said. "It was an amazing environment there. A friendly country but plenty of insurgents trying to thwart the country's progress, and it was our job to support those friendly to us."

Colonel McSally said a good example of that support involved the elections in Afghanistan. The 354th FS had to provide coverage for voters and also protect convoys bringing votes back to the capital to be counted.

Colonel McSally, who has been in the Air Force 18 years and pins on full colonel in December, said she has made the group commanders list and is waiting to see where that leads. She said she is grateful to all the women who served before her and made it possible for her to become an Air Force pilot.

"But, I hope I'm a role model to both men and women because we are a fighting force and should not be concerned with differences between us," Colonel McSally said.

Air War College educates selected senior officers to lead at the strategic level in the employment of air and space forces. The curriculum focuses on coalition warfighting and national security issues, with emphasis on the effective employment of aerospace forces in joint and combined combat operations.


Martha McSally

But there's also Priscilla "Altoid" Giddings.

See: Female A-10 pilot at RIAT 2009 - Priscilla "Altoid" Giddings

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