The spark….

We sat by her pool, my girlfriend and I, comparing story after story of what we had experienced in our careers as my 4 year old son belly flopped repeatedly from her diving board.  Two female military pilots with over 15 years of flying a piece under each of our belts, realizing we had almost the same experiences in our careers in isolated worlds. It was surreal. We had never met before this assignment but we had received the same kind of treatment in our past and reacted in many of the same ways to it. We started to think “how many other women have gone through or are going through what we have experienced ourselves?”. How do we find them and get them to share?

 Tears welled up in her eyes as she remembered all the women she had met that pushed her to do more because “they didn’t have the same opportunity”.  We realized in that moment that we had to do more to create more opportunity for even more women.  More more more. Why is the AF still hovering at 20% women? Why are there only 713 women pilots in our service?  What are the obstacles? Why did we stay and others didn’t? How do we make a difference?

So we created The Milieux Project. A place we envision that creates comraderie, empowerment, inspiration and encouragement for all in the human experience.   We invite anyone to write about their experience as a minority or with minorities in career fields that need more of us. We seek the milieux we can affect to inspire and encourage others. To be the change.  We hope you join us!

Advocating for our Love


At the Milieux Project, @Aviatrix97 and I believe in our true love, military aviation.  We are grateful for all our #sistersinservice and #femalepilots that share our passion.

Capt Susan Finch is just that kind of woman.  Please watch the Air Force video highlighting her passion that we all share.  What an amazing young lady!

The Air Force is an amazing opportunity for flight, we love to share the opportunity!

#bethechange #diversity #girlpilot #airforce #beapilot


Be Yourself

There have been times in my career where I have felt I needed to be less “me”.  In most cases I would try to be one of the guys (somewhat easy since I grew up a tomboy), in others I would try to act more aloof, and in all cases I would try to hide that I was an introvert.   What I took too long to realize, was all of those traits made me the aviator and officer I needed to be.   Why did it take me so long?  Sadly, sometimes it was some of the other women around me that encouraged me to behave in a way contrary to my natural self.  Whether it was the Group commander during my C-21A flying days who told me “cut your hair, if you leave your hair long you’re giving the impression you don’t take this job seriously,” or one of my instructor pilots in T-37’s telling me “if you don’t do the shots of tequila like the rest of the guys, they won’t accept you into the group.”   Back then, I believed them.  So I cut my hair, I did the shots, I tried to act like one of the guys.  Now, I look back and realize it was given bad information…and they had also been given that same info, as they fought for footing (paving the way for the rest of us) in the military aviation community.

One of the reasons my friend @milieux01 wanted to start this project was to reach out to other female aviators and share some of the lessons we have learned and link them up with more role models and better information than we had.

So, what would I say to myself now and to others that follow?  Be a bit more like Jacqueline Cochran:  be yourself.


I am not saying you should be Jackie Cochran, but rather you should be comfortable in your own skin. She definitely did not believe there was any such thing as “too female.”

Jackie Cochran, beautician, air racer, record setter, and W.A.S.P., was unapologetically herself.  She thrived in the masculine environment of aviation, accomplished more for aviation than most remember, and did so without sacrificing her femininity.  The following is from her biography provided by The National Aviation Hall of Fame:  

“Indeed, Jackie’s balance between feminine charm and hard-driving masculine ambition was such that she would push her aircraft relentlessly through air races and competitions…but refused to emerge victorious from the cockpit until she had carefully checked and reapplied her makeup!”


“As would be the case again and again in her life, by sheer force of will, Jackie prevailed”.

Being a successful pilot has nothing to do with gender…it is all training and hard work.  Embrace the qualities that make you the person you are — add to your strengths, work on your weaknesses, but never think you need to hide who you are.   Work hard, be professional, be good at your job.  Soon your achievements will speak for themselves.


“Don’t Command Afraid”

Flight to AMARG

This is a personal post, and may be a bit emotional.  But emotional for good reason.  I see and feel people and situations beyond the surface…at times with a bit more empathy than I would like.  Maybe it is because I’m a woman, maybe it is because I was raised in a small town in Wisconsin, and maybe it is just because I care.  The night before I was to take command of a 140 member squadron, one with the primary mission of enabling training and employment for combat search and rescue units, I was…emotional.   A bit of self-doubt, some concern about “am I good enough to lead these great men and women”, and a lot of “will I make the right decisions?”  Someone I respect greatly had a very simple answer for me that night:  “Don’t command afraid.”   This became the foundation of my years in command as I was determined to follow a motto of:  Be you, be present, be genuine, and don’t command afraid.

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Abraham Lincoln

Not all leadership decisions have a clear correct choice.  Each option has pitfalls and each option has the potential to negatively impact another aspect of the mission.  But putting off a decision due to fear of failure, or even worse making no decision at all, is a failure of leadership.  Consult peers who have faced similar dilemmas, query superiors who have learned through their own trials (and may even have more information to add to the puzzle), and most of all reflect on the overall goal and direction this decision is going to take your unit.  As leaders, we are not expected to have all the answers, but we are expected to take in the information and make a decision.  So make a decision.  If it ends up being the wrong decision, then own up to it, regroup and move forward.

“If you can’t stomach failure, you will never be a great leader.”
Admiral Bill McRaven

At some point, you are going to fail.  I failed often as a leader and a commander.  But each failure offered opportunities to learn from my mistakes.    I am not saying we should accept failure — accepting and stomaching failure are two different things.  Accept that you will fail and learn from it.  We cannot be afraid to make decisions due to fear of failure.  Fearing failure can lead to being adverse to risk.  Being adverse to risk can reduce your chances of your team achieving success.  Trust your team, allow them to learn and grow.  They don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to lead.  Sometimes you will be right, and sometimes you will be wrong.  The key is learning from your mistakes and demonstrating to the men and women under your command that you can accept ownership of your failures, correct course and move on.

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
Stephen R. Covey

Choose your battles.  Everything cannot be important all the time and it is your job as a commander to protect your people from that type of leader.  Be selective in your arguments, the projects you task to personnel, and the goals you set for your unit.  At times it can be a juggling act where some of the balls are glass and some are rubber.  If your goals run contrary to those of your boss, it may be time to reassess the situation.  If you fight every battle, you will wear out both yourself and your people.  Do not be afraid to let some of the rubber balls bounce.

“Don’t command afraid.”

Be present.  Listen.  Trust your people.  Stand-up for them.  Command does not mean popular.  You are not their friend.   Do not let fear of rocking the boat guide your decisions.  Do not let fear of failure lead you to micromanaging your people.  Do not let your fear of confrontation prevent you from enforcing discipline or making unpopular, but necessary, decisions.

Whatever you do, don’t command afraid.  Whether it is your own self-doubt, personal insecurity,  fear that not following the party line will negatively impact your career progression,  or concerns over whether or not you will be taken seriously as a woman leading in a service that is still nearly 80% male (and less than 18% of U.S. Air Force pilots are women), just remember to be you, be present, be genuine and don’t command afraid.

“The stripes don’t mean flight attendant”

I came across this article while reminiscing about the most fun I had ever had in an airplane.  My friend Jessica and I earned our commercial single engine sea rating at Kenmore Air in 2010.  When we were there, I witnessed a young woman effortlessly push a de Havilland Beaver off the dock, jump onto the float, slide into her seat and fire up the engine…all in less than 5 seconds.   I was in awe.  She is a certifiable badass and someone who identified her goal and went for it!


She’s a woman, but when Michelle Cowan climbs into a seaplane, she is a pilot first. As Kenmore Air’s first, full-time female pilot certified to fly the entire fleet, she gets some curious looks from passengers. But she simply smiles and says, “The stripes don’t mean flight attendant.” Read more about Captain Michelle Cowen!

Lyudmila Pavlichenko: Ukranian Sniper


This week’s badass woman of history is one of histories most deadliest snipers, Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko, aka Lady Death.

After an attack on her beloved university in Kiev, Ukraine, Maj Pavlichenko approached recruiters with her civilian expert shooting certificates and asked to join the infantry.

“She looked like a model, with well-manicured nails, fashionable clothes, and hairstyle. Pavlichenko told the recruiter that she wanted to carry a rifle and fight. The man just laughed and asked her if she knew anything about rifles,” wrote of Pavlichenko’s effort to join the military.


Pavlichenko persisted and after a short training pipeline, was sent to the front lines to defend her nation, killing 187 Germans in her first 75 day of war.  She sustained many injuries during her service, the final injury, a mortar explosion to her face, took her permanently off of the battlefield and into a training and political role.

Maj Pavlichenko was a badass from birth, competing and winning in anything she put her mind to.  When visiting the United States, and after being asked too many ridiculous question about her femininity and how it fit into battle she responded finally “Gentlemen, I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”


“I am amazed at the kind of questions put to me by the women press correspondents in Washington. Don’t they know there is a war? They asked me silly questions such as do I use powder and rouge and nail polish and do I curl my hair? One reporter even criticized the length of the skirt of my uniform, saying that in America women wear shorter skirts and besides my uniform made me look fat…This made me angry. I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn.”

Maj Pavlichenko had the warrior spirit.  Whether spending days in bristle bushes waiting for a German Sniper to move or falling 12 feet out of a tree and feigning death for a day to avoid being killed, Pavlichenko was determined to stop the German advance. ““Every German who remains alive will kill women, children and old folks,” she said. “Dead Germans are harmless. Therefore, if I kill a German, I am saving lives.”

Being a great killer or soldier has nothing to do with gender- it is purely mindset and training.


Valerie Andre: le General helicopter pilot

A little known piece of history is that one of the earliest proponents of modern day helicopter rescue and medical evacuation is credited to le General Valerie Andre, a French doctor and highly decorated helicopter pilot.

le General Valerie Andre began her career in 1948, entering the service as a pilot, parachutist and army surgeon.  During her service, she connected the utility of a vertical lift platform to urgent medical care.  In 1951, she piloted an aircraft during a conflict in Vietnam to pick up casualties in urgent need of care. She is credited with 165 more sorties in that conflict and a total of 365 combat missions in Algeria and other nations and was promoted to general in 1981 for her actions and service.

Thanks to pioneers such as le General Andre, we have modern combat casualty evacuation and combat search and rescue.  While le General never earned a pilot certificate, she has over 4000 hrs in helicopters and 7 citations of the croix de guerre.

Watch her flying here– what an incredibly courageous and visionary leader.

Khutulun: It’s normal to be a badass girl

One of the challenges of our modern western milieu is the implicit bias that, despite numerous examples otherwise, steers us into believing women are somehow not athletic or strong, competitive or political.  Laypersons make sweeping generalizations about women (uhhhh…. Google guy James Damore), and through confirmation bias, deceive themselves into thinking they are righteous or right in their characterization of us.  These generalizations limit young girls and women, intentionally or unintentionally stovepiping our youth into thinking they are not what they could be.  Being encouraged to “get along with others” further cements these limiting characterizations on those girls who might otherwise have tried to strike out on their own.  Its time for that to change.

In  the first of a series of badass girls of history, I would like to introduce, Khutulun, Mongolian Princess.


Princess Khutulun was born to Kaidu, decendent of Ghengis Khan, and most powerful ruler in central Asia in the second century.  She had 14 brothers, was undefeated in Mongolian wrestling, accumulating 10000 horses in wagers otherwise, and grew up to be her father’s trusted right hand general in battle.  In his travel journals, Marco Polo marveled at Khutulun’s beauty, strength and athleticism.  He chronicled one of Khutulun’s favorite tactics in war; riding her horse hard toward her enemy and “plucking” a soldier from the battlefield like a hawk and laying his dismembered body proudly in front of her father.  I’m sure old google guy would crack under the anxiety of possibly being the victim of her assault.

This is truly an example of nurture over what some presume to be nature.  There is only one chromosome difference between men and women.  All fetuses are women until the genetic code of that chromosome is activated.  Let us not forget that no one of us is inferior to the other.  We are all equal, capable and have the potential to be badasses of our own right.  With the right mixture of support, opportunity and encouragement, we could tap into a whole power we did not allow ourselves to imagine existed.  Sure, not everyone is fit to be a certain ideal, but Khutulun is just one example of many that broke the mold.  I can’t wait to share more with you.



It’s not “too”

Sheryl Sandburg, author of Lean In, has been a great advocate for women’s empowerment and equality but there is just one small thing that is off about her message. It’s not that girls should be taught they can be “great leaders, too” but that that they have amazing talents and they need to take risks.

This is her message, that girls should be taught to be great leaders, too, in her newest article in Fortune Magazine

There should no longer be comparison or measuring one gender against the other. One gender doesn’t have the market cornered in the art of leadership- even though we have been taught that they have.  Both genders are capable of amazing things.  We just have to encourage everyone- men and women- to be our best. 

Girls should be encouraged to lead.  Period.

#instagramstories #ff #girlsinc #leanin

Because I’m a girl

Everyday our achievements can be diminished by our peers by the simple phrase “you achieved that because you are a girl/woman” or “management/instructors/the boss goes easy on you because you are a girl/woman” or “that was great for a woman”.

Who knows why they say it- but let’s remind ourselves why we keep doing it… 

Because I’m a girl

#girlsinc #diversity #bethechange