Interview with Lt Col (ret) Joe Barnard – Special Forces Operator and Founder of Operation Moxi

“The basic problem that I see, Jenn, is that many women are marginalized every day by misogynistic men” Joseph Barnard, Lt Col (Ret), USAF stated at my kitchen table one day.  “And this is personal, because I know how amazing and capable my wife Meghan is and I watch men (especially in our early years) blow her off just because of her gender”

I don’t think I have ever heard someone describe the foundational reason Carrie and I started Milieux Project, Inc so succinctly in my life- I wish we had recorded him on voice saying it.  I was impressed, this former special forces operator turned commander, 33 years on active duty, being as passionate about something as I have been and he actually tried doing something about it. And not just something, but dedicated a good portion of 3 years of his life working on a way to make a change. It was impressive to hear his desire and commitment to change the negative dynamic between men and women in male-dominated careers. I learned that this passion drove him to design, build and self-fund his own “women’s badass boot camp” (my words, not his, but no better way to describe it) program called “Operation Moxi” in 2012. Watch a little about it here.

What did he really mean though?  What is the “marginalization of women”?  The foundational issue, as both he and I see it, is that our society doesn’t test or challenge girls like we do boys while they grow up (between late teen years and the majority of their twenties) – but we expect both boys and girls to receive the same challenges as professional adults and succeed.  This is just not a great set up to achieve gender parity.  We hold women at much higher expectations, with big result expectations based on general representation, not based on individual ability or training. It’s a big reason women end up losing- because we set high expectations broadly in gender, not in training.  This is why we need programs Milieux Project camps for our girls.

As both Joe and I know, there is no better proof of ability than doing something.  Not talking about doing tough things, philosophizing about them or writing about them- but doing them. IMG_8980The smell of hydraulic fluid, the vibration of helicopter rotors, putting on and taking off equipment, setting up life-saving systems, exiting an aircraft into a dark night with only night vision goggles on, working yourself to fatigue over and over again, dealing with dusty teeth and sweaty brows – when life depends on you – all create an environment not easily endured by many (men or women).  And it’s hard to describe the real guts, determination and heart it takes to experience and power through individual fears to guttural confidence within the same space.  How did both he and I get to where we were – what brought us to our achievements – and why aren’t there more women in this space?  It’s our belief that more research needs to be done into girl’s confidence like this that proves many girls aren’t tested like boys are until much later in life, when things count- so that when a girl has grown into a woman and fails – society quickly points out that she didn’t have the ability, and ignores that she wasn’t given the life long training to compete.

If we don’t encourage girls to climb high, run fast, be in charge or take big risks early and often, they will never be comfortable doing so when they are older…

I see it every day on the playground.  Mothers and fathers discouraging their girls from climbing higher, jumping further, or taking lead- and I am starting to see some parents doing the same for their boys.  Kids must test themselves, learn their limits.  If we don’t let girls climb high, run fast, be in charge or take big risks early, building habits of testing themselves and each other, leading and failing, they will never be comfortable enough with themselves or their abilities to try it when they are older.  This is what Joe fundamentally believes too, was the big reason he started Project Moxi, and why we had met to collaborate.

I was reminded recently of Shannon Faulkner and her initiative to enter the Citadel in the 1990’s.- she ran an entire campaign on the assumption that any woman could do anything men can do.  While in theory, it should be true, in application it is not because men are prepared differently for life than women.   Because I was preparing to enter a military academy myself, I vividly remember not only how she was marginalized but also abused for gaining entrance into the Citadel in 1995. The truth was that she hadn’t been trained and tested for the challenges of the Citadel as many of her male peers were. Prepared and trained women do compete with the same prepared men for entry and graduation from the Citadel.  Ms. Faulkner just wasn’t the right trained woman to be the first female through the Citadel.  If it wasn’t for her, however, there wouldn’t be as many successful women graduating from the school now.

Young girl excited to touch the controls

The Milieux Project, Inc wants to give girls and women the training they need to compete for big roles in real life.  With help from Joe and Meghan, we’re excited to design programs that give girls and women the space to test and train themselves in tough environments before they have to do it “when it counts”.  We want to be the brand that connects all kids to the entire aviation space- so they know and understand what has already been achieved and what more we need them to do as leaders of tomorrow.



taking commandLt Col (ret) Joe Barnard, USAF is an example of many Special Forces men that know and believe that women belong in combat if they choose to be- we just have to hold them to the same expectations as we do men.  He, along with so many others are going to be pivotal to the change we are seeking.  Milieux Project is excited to have such support- let’s do this!



Could this be the person who inspired Indiana Jones? Hint: it’s not who you expect

Stuck inside on COVID19 quarantine?  Scared you might be a carrier and don’t know it yet?  Well, pop two Airbornes, wash your hands and sit down to read about one of the world’s most interesting people – Aloha Wanderwell.

Aloha Wanderwell was born in Canada as Idris Galcia Hall in Oct 1906 to two British Army Reservists.  Idris was adventurous from the start, exploring the outdoors of Winnipeg with her father.  Upon the sudden death of her father though, her mother moved Idris to France so that she could attend a convent – to help her become more ladylike and less of a tomboy.  This did not suit the six foot tall headstrong girl and she yearned for adventure.


When she found an ad to join Capt Walter Wanderwell (aka Valerian Johannes Piecynski), she immediately applied.  “Cap'” Wanderwell was building an expedition and had founded what he believed was going to be a League of Nations – an international army that would ensure peace around the globe.


Through “Cap'” Wanderwell, Aloha became a star.  She traveled over 380,000 miles in a Model T Ford, visiting the countries of China, India, Saudi Arabia and Africa.  At her own personal risk, she filmed hidden tribes, escaped bandits, and visited remote places.  She became an inspiration and role model for many women, and lived until 1996 when she passed away in her California home.

These are just a few of her pictures, learn more about Aloha and her spirit for adventure at


Coronavirus (COVID-19) in China: A pilot’s experience

If you have read the recently, or any news outlet for that matter, you would think that China is doing nothing to stop the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak of 2020.  Over 2,000 people have died so far from the illness and more than 74k have been diagnosed, and nearly 150 million people in China alone, quarantined to their homes.  This, combined with a media scare that happened last week about contaminated items shipped from China  – it’s a scary time for traveling.  While US and other country’s passenger carriers have suspended flights to China, most cargo carriers have not.

But in the life of an airline pilot, the trips must go on.  Our mail and packages have to get to the United States somehow, and the airlines potentially risk illness for their employees (and their family and friends) for the surity of e-commerce.  Of note, their operations are also critical to delivering medical supplies and other assistance during the outbreak.  Both UPS and FedEx have delivered medical supplies in the recent weeks.  Additionally, both UPS and FedEx have agreed to make China flying “voluntary” for their pilots.

So what is like for our airline professionals traveling in China?  One of our pilots at the Milieux Project reports that it is much harder to get through immigration.  For one, her normal airline privileges are no longer enough – there is additional medical screening along with forms and ever-changing additional requirements.  Also, there are a lot more temperature checks everywhere she goes.  On a recent trip, her temperature was checked three times as she transitioned from mainland China to Hong Kong, twice during her ride from the border to her hotel, and once more as she checked into the hotel.   They want to know if she has any symptoms associated with the virus, which may lead to quarantine to help stop the spread of the virus.

IMG_8978China is taking these precautions seriously, reducing staff (and sometimes using robots as room service) in the hotels, establishing additional roadside health checks and quarantining those that show symptoms related to the virus, just to ensure the maximum protection from it spreading.

Neighboring countries are taking precautions as well.  The checks and balances placed on anyone indicating recent travel from mainland China are ever-changing.  With all the precautions in place, the chances of being exposed to the virus is extremely low, but there can never be enough precautions to isolate an outbreak.  So we are cautiously optimistic, especially as new cases in China appear to be slowing.

You may not know all of this from most US reports, however, so Milieux Project wanted to communicate that precautions and measures are in place to protect those that must continue to work in and through China during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Pilots and aircrew are protected and safe from any disease outbreak in the world.  Feel good about exploring the world!


Space at your fingertips

Hubble's 28th birthday picture: The Lagoon Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula (photo credit: ESA/Hubble,

Space. I have been fascinated by it since I was 5 years old (maybe sooner, but that is my first memory). When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be Neil Armstrong. By third grade, I was certain I would follow in the footsteps of Sally Ride and Shannon Lucid (representation is important!). While my career did not take me to space, the love and fascination has never left me. Kids today are lucky to live in the age of the internet. The knowledge and tools to explore their interests is literally at their fingertips. Whether you are a teacher, parent, grandparent, neighbor, mentor, friend, or amateur space enthusiast (like me), please go to immediately. No matter who you are in age or position, space is just cool. Introduce that budding space explorer in your life or your classroom to some of the great projects, information and resources available on the site. You will not be disappointed.  I am off to make a moon phases calendar.


“To be free and French”; The Nardal sisters and the history of Negritude

How familiar are you with Negritude?  A movement started just after the first world war, was an awakening of minorities in France.  The word “Negri” was a play on the French word “Negre” and “tude” the play on the word “Attitude“- symbolizing a new way to explore self, society and segregation (Cesaire, Camouflage).  A recent JSTOR article piques the curiosity about a significant family in post-war France, the Nardal sisters. Poets, journalists, delegates to the United Nations, explorers and political advocates, these women chronicled and assembled the history and struggles of the black community in Europe.

Negritude, or “blackness” was a unifying force in France and, some suggest, may have been a contributing sentiment to the civil rights movement in the United States.

Sound interesting? Read more here and be that much smarter about women’s and black history :



Applications to Preflight Aviation Camp is now open!

Preflight camper experiencing a RedBird Simulator

Preflight Aviation Camp, a flight experience for girls, is now taking applications for 2020 campers.  The camp is one week long, from June 20-25, at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX.

Milieux Project has supported a camper each year and seen the life-changing effects attending this camp can have on a young girl between the age of 11 and 14.

Are you or someone you know interested in applying for the camp?  The website is  Apply today!


Delta Scholarship to National Flight Academy

Aviation enthusiasts ages 11-17 can apply for a Delta sponsored scholarship to the National Flight Academy this summer in Pensacola, Fl! Once in a lifetime opportunity fully funded for maximum enjoyment.

Application requirements include a video and essay- and are due by Feb 21, 2020.

Want a preview of what’s in store? Check out this video to see all of the experiences in store for you and your family.

On Mentoring and Being Seen


The first class to graduate under the Artemis program includes (top row) Matthew Dominick of NASA, Kayla Barron of NASA, Warren Hoburg of NASA, and Joshua Kutryk of CSA, (middle row) Bob Hines of  NASA, Frank Rubio of NASA, Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons of CSA, Jasmin Moghbeli of NASA, and Jessica Watkins of NASA, (bottom row) Raja Chari of NASA, Jonny Kim of NASA, Zena Cardman of NASA, and Loral O’Hara of NASA
Photo Credit: NASA (

On 10 January 2020, 13 new astronauts joined the ranks of both NASA and the CSA.  Almost as noteworthy as the new astronauts is the fact that this was the first public graduation ceremony NASA has ever hosted.  Each of the graduates are incredibly intelligent, skilled, and qualified (you can read their biographies at  Additionally, in his graduation remarks, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated it was the most diverse class of astronauts to graduate the demanding 2+ year training program.

We commend NASA for making the graduation public and for televising the event. While it may not be likely that many tuned in to the NASA channel or to watch the event, the public ceremony is a step in the right direction.  NASA and other aviation and space related organizations should continue to celebrate the men and women who join their ranks in an effort to showcase possibilities to those who may follow in their footsteps.

The importance of representation, being visible, and mentoring is more than a feel good thing, it may also be scientific.  In “Science: it’s a role model thing“, Chris Gunter addresses the common belief that “girls are more likely to enter and stay in a scientific career if they have female role models who are successful in science or math; ergo, female scientists should make all efforts to serve as role models.” [1] In her article she poses the question: is it actually true?  The author discovered that while there were a multitude of online efforts and programs to involve girls and women in science, there is an absence of peer reviewed studies to identify the effectiveness of these activities.   Her article was the first time I heard of the concept of ‘stereotype threat’, which she defined as “the effect of anxiety or negative emotion when a subject is put in a position where they might confirm a negative stereotype about themselves”.  I had already read about and understood imposter syndrome which can be defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” [2] ‘Imposters’ like me suffer from chronic self-doubt, the idea that we are not as smart as our performance shows or others think we are.  My two cents?  Seeing someone who looks like you can help you overcome both a stereotype threat and imposter syndrome, but talking to them and reading about how they achieved their success is even more important.

Being role models, like the recent 13 NASA and CSA astronauts, and being a mentor helps.  But these roles are not without their own barriers.  In her article Gunter further states that data indicates the type of role model presented matters and individuals preparing to be role models and mentors indicated they felt pressure “to be the perfect woman scientist to attract girls to the field.” [3]. Furthermore, what if the role model or mentor is deemed too perfect, furthering the belief that success in that career is unobtainable.   For example, a little girl could see the picture of the first Artemis astronaut class and see that 6 of the 13 new astronauts are women (yes!) but then read their biographies and learn the details of their incredible credentials and success, leading the girl to believe she cannot achieve that same success (no!).

So what do we do?  Our advice:  continue to be present, be visible, and mentor. Share your stories, your failures, and your success.  Help bring the next generation up.  Let them see someone who looks like them succeed…but also share how you got there so they do not fall prey to any sort of stereotype or syndrome.  It is never too late get involved.  Contact your local Boys and Girls Club, attend mentoring programs at your library, volunteer to speak to Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in your community.  Gunter provides examples to ways to get involved in her article, we are sharing them here along with some ideas of our own.

Continue reading “On Mentoring and Being Seen”

$1M of AOPA Scholarships

Students and teachers are already qualified for this year’s Aircraft Owners and Operators (AOPA) scholarships. Students ages 15-18 yrs can receive up to $10k towards a pilot’s license, and up to 20 qualified teachers can apply for the same.

Picture care of

Those already flying can also apply for advanced ratings at various levels.

Interested? Find out more information below- applications are due by Mar 1st. Who knows, you might be the next scholarship recipient!


The Service Academy path to Flying


Are you a student in high school and interested in a flying career? You may want to consider attending a service academy instead of a state or private university for your four-year bachelor’s degree.  The service academies are little known opportunities that do not require tuition, pay students to attend, guarantee at least 5 years of employment after graduation, and supply a young person with endless possibilities for the rest of her life, not the least of which is free training in aviation.  So what does it take to apply?

There are 4 major academies and several smaller military schools that can be paths to a military aviation career.  Did you know that the United States Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, Military Academy (West Point), the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy can all provide flying opportunities for graduates?  All are among the best collegiate programs in the country and can provide an easy track to many professions, in multiple fields.  So, how does one apply to “The Academy”?

Service Academies; from upper left to bottom right – West Point, Air Force Academy Chapel, USNA, and Coast Guard Academy

The process is lengthy, so early preparation is key.  Anyone interested in attending a service academy must demonstrate to an admissions board a well-rounded student and citizen.   This means not only having competitive grades, but it also means participating in clubs and organizations that are not school functions (ie an after school activity or nonaffiliated program) and also playing at least one sport.  If you are considering a service academy as an option for your collegiate degree, we recommend starting early to prepare your resume, because the schools are highly competitive.  Most students begin preparing in their sophomore year, though applications are not due until senior year of highschool.

Many steps of the application process are unique to military academies compared to colleges and universities.  One very large difference is the requirement to apply for, and secure, a nomination from a sitting member of Congress or the Vice President of the United States.  If you don’t know who your Senator or Representative is, here is the list of representatives and this link to find your senator.  You do not have to personally know any of these members, an official request is required.  Congressional members have different methods of nominating their candidates.  Some members require an in-person interview.  Others host panels of interviews, much like a job interview.  The member nominating a candidate will want to see the well rounded and mature person that meets their expectation of a future military officer.  There are other ways to secure a nomination for specialty groups, check each academy’s website for details.

Once a nomination application is complete,  applicants will be contacted by a Liaison Officer (Or Blue and Gold member as known in the Navy)- someone in the service associated with the Academy that can assist with the rest of the application process- and be given an opportunity to visit the school in an overnight capacity.  Students will have to take a physical fitness test designed by the specific service academy as well as a medical examination and may have to take other screening tests to ensure basic aptitude for military service.  An applicant should have a clean record – no arrests, drug use or misdemeanors on record- and cannot be married or have children.

tran-mau-tri-tam-tZnbakTUcTI-unsplash.jpgEach service academy accepts about 800-1100 students a year, out of 10,000.  Varsity sports players sometimes have an advantage for admission, as sports are a revenue source for the Academies, but they are not the majority of admissions.  Also, no requirements are set for any previous flight or military experience.  Cadets who attend are given the full scope of skills necessary to become military officers and specialists.  Some candidates with congressional nominations who do not make the cut for an academy may be offered a year at prep school to cover a gap in a record.  Many people who attend prep school are accepted into the academy the following year without issue.

USAFA Soaring program

If you are considering an application to one of the service Academies, and have more questions after reading this short summary, feel free to reach out to us using our message feature.  If we don’t know the answer to your question we can connect you to someone who can.

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