Did you know the WASPs are having a reunion? It is one of the only opportunities that 4 of the original 1830 WASPs will be available for interviews. We at Milieux are obsessed with the W.A.S.P.s, the W.A.V.E.S. and the W.A.C.. The history of aviation is full of amazing stories of bravery and accomplishment.
But on 25 May in Sweetwater, TX, women are going to come together for some of the most unsung heroes of our time- the WASPs. Maj Gen (s) Jeannie Leavitt will be the keynote speaker as well as a brief time to talk to some of the pioneers of the WASP organization.
The National WASP WWII Museum opened in 2005 in a hangar built in 1929 that served as the Sweetwater Municipal Airport. On 25 May, please join them to celebrate their history and impact they made to your USAF. These brave women paved the way for diversity, inclusion, and ambition. Their pictures only tell half their story- hear more of their story from them. Consider attending!
If you haven’t read about Marina Raskova and the NightWitches- you are missing out on some amazing history.
Deployed out of need in WWII, the Soviet Union commissioned Maj Raskova to find 400 women to fill out their fighter and night bombing squadrons- including the 588th pictured above. They fit the women into any uniforms they could find, using make shift filling for their boots to make them fit and flying wooden planes at night – giving them their nickname- the Nachthexens or Night Witch in German from the sound of the wood airplanes diving to deliver their destruction.
And the bombers were effective- “the Germans had two theories about why these women were so successful: They were either all criminals who were masters at stealing and had been sent to the front line as punishment—or they had been given special injections that allowed them to see in the night” according to a recent article on history.com.
The bomber squadron was only one of three all women squadrons in the Soviet Air Force.
The Air Force Times reports on April 2, 2019 “Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and Doug Jones, D-Alabama, this week introduced theCeiling and Visibility Unlimited Act, which aims to make it easier for all branches of the military to create scholarships for JROTC members to get their private pilot’s licenses.”
“Ceiling and Visibility unlimited” or “CAVU” is a meteorological acronym used by pilots and one that former President George H.W. Bush would use to describe unlimited and unrestricted possibilities. It’s a perfect fit to the program.
It’s a step in the right direction to increase exposure to aviation to many minorities who wouldn’t get it otherwise- and will hopefully encourage them to pursue jobs in aviation.
It is no secret the AF will be short of its target for pilots this year and is projected to stay below requirements for several years without further intervention. The airlines are also facing a major shortage starting in 2023 when many of their pilots reach their mandatory retirement age of 65.
This is only one program of many intended to target this shortage. Stay tuned in to Milieux for more info.
This past weekend marked the second annual “Eyes Above the Horizon” airshow at the historic Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. Hundreds of children from across the United States came to see multiple civil and military aircraft ranging from a single-engine Cessna-150s and Beechcraft Texan T-6 all the way to Multi-Engine corporate jets like the Hawker 800 flown in and by black and minority pilots. It was a grassroots effort organized, planned and executed by four Air Force officers that are determined to change the Air Force and our future.
I didn’t know what to expect when my friend Phi Tran and Kenyatta Deacon Ruffin asked me to volunteer a few weeks ago. I had heard of Eyes Above the Horizon in 2017, after they visited Moody Air Force Base and my friend and I saw their front page news article back then. We had been watching for an opportunity to participate ever since and I was thrilled to even know where the event was taking place, even more elated to help. As I drove into town though, I wondered how kids from the local area- which is economically depressed and only a shadow of the great town it once was- were going to know about this opportunity and participate. The airfield was remote and tucked away, so much so that my GPS took me to the wrong address initially.
But when I finally found 1721 General Benjamin O. Davis Drive, named for the Combat leader and first black general in the Army, and pulled up to the Golden Eagle Aviation FBO, I found a beautiful, modern building almost complete with construction and almost 200 people gathered across the tarmac between the on-field restaurant to the end of the parking ramp – where the Tuskegee Airman Museum is maintained. But I was in for an even bigger surprise when I turned and saw none other than one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen, and soon to be centenarian, Col Charles “Chuck” McGee.
Everyone pulled their phones out to grab pictures, including myself, and when I finished snapping a photo of the historic event, I looked around to take in the energy of the people that were attending. I saw groups of young people paired with mentors, most of the mentors being in uniform and excited to share with the children. The group standing near me was the American Airlines contingent that was sponsoring the event, also comprised of mostly minority pilots- including my very good friend Jason Harris, speaker and executive coach on “no fail leadership”.
As I finished my survey, two people caught my eye- an older gentleman walking his grand-daughter behind the aircraft where all the commotion was happening- he was being as respectful as possible while still working his child up to the plane. I was so taken by the scene, I could relate to being in an unfamiliar area with no one to answer questions, so I made a bee line to them to ask if this young lady wanted to have a personal tour guide for all of the amazing airplanes that were out. Her grandfather smiled from ear to ear and agreed instantly to the offer.
She locked hands with mine and we started walking towards the executive jet – the Gulfstream 4- that was at the far end of the ramp. Her imagination was unleashed as she walked up the stairs and into the cabin, the beautiful leather and mahogany service area sparkling in the sun- something that most people only see in movies (including myself). She skipped cheerfully from aircraft to aircraft, I watched as she wondered about the possibilities, asked about driving them, curious about how these beasts flew. She walked right up to everyone asking if they were the pilots of the aircraft and if they loved what they did. It was so lovely to live vicariously through her discover of everything that was around us.
I began to wonder at how many times this event could happen, where targetted populations are exposed to possibilities like these- to see themselves one day flying these jets. I thought about the impact it was having on each of these children, if they saw all of the 30 volunteers from all branches of the aviation business out to support them as themselves one day. And I wondered how much this one moment meant to my little companion and if it would have a positive impact on any part of her life. It’s my hope that it does.
The story doesn’t end here, however, I plan to fly a sortie back to Tuskegee soon and reunite with this little girl and her loving grandfather. She asked for a ride one day and if I can make it happen, I absolutely will. Who knows what she will become one day.
If you have the opportunity to support this great organization I highly recommend it. Its a great way to #bethechange and #sharethedream
We’re so excited to announce that we are over halfway to our goal of $1000 to send a girl to Preflight Aviation Camp this summer, July 23-27!!
But we need your help! Please consider even a small donation to our 2nd Annual Aviation Camp Scholarship that funds a girl between the age of 8 and 12 to attend a week long course with her peers- and have mentors for life!
It was such an honor to not only meet (!) but converse with a real live hero- Tammie Jo Shults, captain of the fated Southwest Airlines flight 1380 that suffered a catastrophic engine failure in flight- at the Women in Aviation International conference (#WAI2019) held in Long Beach, CA!
Pilot Tammie Jo Shults poses for a portrait in the cockpit of an airplane on Wednesday, August 1, 2018 at the San Antonio International Airport.
Milieux Project had previously written about Tammie Jo in an analysis of her fame and media response compared to Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger’s mishap in 2009. Without knowing the “inside story” but only evaluating the situation from an outside perspective, we wondered if the feminist narrative that we write about so much – the idea that women of modernity are repeatedly heralded for accomplishing supposed “firsts” because of historical suppression and oppression and not due to skill or experience – may have contributed to her quiet reduction in media coverage.
The aviation community had been asking the same questions- as Dr. George Nolly points out here in his podcast, readyfortakeoffpodcast.com– Tammie Jo’s mishap was far more complex, dangerous, and far more physically, emotionally and mentally challenging than Capt “Sully’s” mishap and yet she was not rewarded – much less recognized!- for her calm and presence under intense pressure landing her 737 that day. The black box tapes capturing her dialogue with the ground controller revealed her poise from the beginning to end, she even helped the ground controller to remain calm as she shared the news that she had lost a passenger due to the rapid decompression. It is hard to imagine being her in that moment passing the report of a lost passenger. She shared every detail with us at the Women in Aviation International Conference 2019, bringing most of us to tears, detailing the heroism of her entire crew and ordinary citizens that were on that fateful flight that day.
So it was an absolute honor to walk with her into the lobby of the Hyatt hotel after our Women Military Aviators Flight Suit Social and ask her directly why her aviation mishap was handled so differently than Sully’s. Was it by her choice that she did not speak much about her accident or were other things at play that the public was not privy to. Her response was amazing, she has so much character.
First, the incident was an anomaly and had never been experienced before. The aviation community understood that but the day to day Southwest customer might not. SWA worried the news of the equipment failure might lead to a fear of flying for their customers so they chose not to highlight the emergency. Tammie Jo was asked not to discuss the details before the safety investigation was concluded. Sully, on the other hand, suffered bird strikes, which is something most people can understand is not related to the systems of the aircraft.
Second, Tammie wanted to respect the family of the passenger that died. Sully did not have fatalities associated with his accident, so it was much more tolerable for him to go on late night television to “make light” of his incident. Tammie knew implicitly that such a move on her crew’s part would be inappropriate and disrespectful to the family and everyone that was on the flight and witnessed the loss.
Finally, she and her crew are helping to write a book and movie about the accident that she hopes will accurately depict what she and her crew had to do to save the flight that day. She stressed multiple times that she was not alone coordinating and landing the jet that day- it took her whole crew- and it is hard to give an accurate description without a movie or pictures.
All three of those reasons were enough for Capt Shults to take time to reflect and collect herself on how she wanted the media- and the world- to understand how everything happened that day. Her leadership showed through even as she was describing these circumstances and I am grateful to have heard her experience directly from the hero herself. I imagine her story, and the whole crew of SWA flight 1380 stories, are just beginning… I can’t wait to watch the movie and share her story with my friends and family.
If you ever have the opportunity to hear Captain Shults speak, I highly recommend it. She is humble, approachable, graceful, sincere and strong. I am so grateful my path crossed hers.
While on a trip to Pensacola, FL recently to visit friends, I had time to stop in and visit the Airplane Discovery Park at the Pensacola Airport. It’s a neat little place for kids that has a mock runway and tower as well as some plaques about local aviators. Little did I know what I was going to discover- a dedication to Pensacola native and aviation pioneer, Ms. Betty Skelton.
What a find. I snapped a quick picture and promised myself to read more about her when I returned home.Betty Skelton was an athlete, daredevil, businesswoman, barefoot pilot, race car driver and volunteer astronaut in 1959. She was nicknamed the “First Lady of Firsts” and “Fastest woman on earth” and had a mind-boggling list of accomplishments. Life and Look Magazines were enamored with her, highlighting her determination and talents in all of the things she did.
But how many of us know about all of her amazing accomplishments? I am an aviator and honestly can’t say I had heard her name before this discovery. I couldn’t imagine soloing at 12 years old (illegally), flying a biplane upside down at 20 ft for the “inverted ribbon cut” or driving a jet powered car at 315mph with an open face mask. But she did it. Absolutely incredible. Why don’t we hear more about her? It’s a theory I have that we don’t like to remember these women because it doesn’t fit the narrative that women are not as strong or courageous as men. It saddens me when I think of all the amazing women like Ms. Skelton that fade out of our cultural memory. Thank goodness for these memorials, we need more of them though.
Reading about Betty Skelton has inspired me to be stronger, try new things and follow my passions- like she did. If more girls knew about the fearlessness that this brilliant woman possessed, I can only imagine how many more would be inspired to do more today. She was truly an example of courage and grit. I’m so grateful I stumbled upon a memorial to her.
With that all said- I probably still won’t try the “inverted ribbon cut”. Would you?
A part of US history not often remembered this day in history – Hawaii’s first and last Queen was illegally arrested and held captive the rest of her life by the United States. Despite multiple attempts to convince American interests in the area that Hawaii was a sovereign nation (the first to have central power in its capital building), the US refused to acknowledge Hawaii as an independent nation.
The resistance movement to restore Hawaii to Hawaiians still exists, since the US never officially received permission from the natives of Hawaii to make Hawaii a state. It was on a trip in 2011 that I learned about this tragic history by visiting the capital city and touring the palace. Most Americans don’t know this history or the current movement to restore Hawaii to Hawaiians. I sure didn’t.
Atlas Obscura is one of Milieux’s favorite blogs to read- it is a fantastic source of history and interesting tourist sites. This article on Queen Boudica and the statue dedicated to her in London, England does not disappoint. Read more about this amazing example of immense courage and inspiration here. And if reading is not your thing, listen to a podcast on her here.
Every day amazing stories about women like Josephine Baker appear in my searches for inspiration. She started out as an entertainer in France, was the most photographed woman in the world, fought in two wars and ended up as a leader in the US Civil Rights movement. Thought I would share her story unique story here.
Perhaps you didn’t know, but the record for the first woman in space was not held by an American (gasp!) but a Russian woman the Chicago Tribune dubbed “The Russian Blonde in Space”… even though she wasn’t even blonde.
Despite how “modern” we like to think America is, there is still much stereotyping and bias for women in science, technology, and combat-related fields. These stereotypes are pervasive and foundational to how many Americans approach women in, well, anything. So let us take a pause and remember this moment when America was not the leader of equality movements during the space race- and think on how we still struggle to put women at parity to men.
In her time, Valentina Tereshkova challenged American bias on what was a Russian Woman and, I would argue, what constituted “an astronaut”. Because she was not a shapeless, sexless, androgynous being, it was sensational news in the United States that a feminine woman was sent to space.
The irony is that women may actually be better suited for space flight than men, according to iGiant research. Women do not suffer the same effects to their vision as men do as research on launches has discovered, and there are certainly more differences and advantages to be determined once our society fully embraces the efficacy of including both genders in the space race- especially in the development of our nations “Space Force“.
In order to get to gender parity, however, we have to see everyone as a contributing member to society, which, unfortunately, I think we are far from. Women are different- not less than (as society reinforced by Darwin and De Beauvoir would have us think) than men. These differences are advantageous in some areas, if we are willing to consider these possibilities. It just takes imagination and open minds to discover what we are missing. We have to thank pioneers like Valentina Tershkova for enlightening and encouraging us.
As the argument continues on whether women belong in combat, a book was published called Ashley’s War, The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Operations Battlefield, By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (2015). If you have not already, please read it. The book captures the heart, determination and authentic capability of our women soldiers who are ready to serve in the Army’s toughest combat scenarios. So ready were the women chronicled in this book in particular, they were willing to give their life for the opportunity. 1Lt Ashley White, along with two other Rangers, lost her life with the 2nd of the 75th Ranger Battalion on this day (22 Oct) in 2011. She will not be forgotten.
Since the ban on women in combat was lifted in 2013, many services have taken longer than expected to determine how women should be integrated. Believe what you want, but I personally think this delay is perpetuating myths that put our young women in danger- reinforcing beliefs among both men and women that women are somehow handicapped or too weak to perform like men. Many in our society believe women would be a liability in combat (though technically the argument should be that we “are” a liability because we are already there- but we aren’t a liability as it is so we won’t be a liability in the future), that including both genders is a “social experiment” that would hold “all-male” units back. One most outspoken is Lt Gen (Ret) Jerry Boykin, citing uncleanliness and privacy as main reasons why women should not be treated equally. I, personally, am offended by this argument and I think many women feel the same.
What is lost most when we suggest women don’t belong in combat, when they are already there, is the benefits of being legally “allowed” in combat. Without legally sanctioning women as combatants, women cannot get treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we cannot claim combat on our military records, we have no rights to several VA programs available to our male peers because we have never “been in combat” as well as many other things our society takes for granted that only men get for their service. There are very few services for women veterans, a huge disparity exists between the way male and female veterans are treated. Worse yet, our families and spouses are not given the same support and respect as those of our male peers who are “legally allowed” in combat. The layers of mistreatment and inequality run deep.
So the generals asked the lawyers to find a way to let women on their SOF teams and after some consternation, came up with the “Cultural Support Teams” or CST for short, a concept of women “enablers” (not operators) that would “assist” the teams on missions. Hundreds of women volunteered from various corners of the military – Active Duty, National Guard and Reserves- all who had been craving an elite challenge like this all their careers. These were women hungered for the opportunity to compete and serve in the far more exciting roles of hand to hand combat they had imagined they would be doing when they joined the military instead of the mundane desk jobs they had all been forced to take due only to their gender.
They were given physical tests up to SF standards and those that failed were sent home. Once they passed the minimums, they went through a grueling condensed version of the Ranger and the Special Operations pipeline, learning teambuilding, problem-solving, medical skills, shooting, moving and above all patience and resolve. These women showed their tenacity and strength- eager to have the opportunity to serve at the tip of the spear and hell-bent on not screwing it up.
After training, the women were assigned across Afghanistan to “assist” the Ranger and Special Forces teams. Never were they allowed to wear the badges or consider themselves actual special operators- but they were in all aspects warriors and elite forces. The men they served with recognized that.
1Lt Ashley White was just one of these women. One who could climb ropes in full gear countless times over, who could run faster, do more pushups and still bake better cookies than many of her male counterparts, all while doing it with a smile on her face. She was a leader and a pioneer. Courageous and patriotic. She is just one example of a woman, when given the chance to compete, outshone anyone’s expectations.
I respectfully disagree with Lt Gen Boykin that we are only now socially experimenting with women in combat because we are lifting the ban. In reality, the American people and Department of Defense have been socially experimenting with women in combat for centuries without giving us credit for our accomplishments or protection from our disparagers. Instead we have been asked to serve, to live in danger away from our families, to respond willingly to our nation’s call which we have all done faithfully, without the recognition of our service on any level all while being told we don’t belong there. While we have done this for years without recognition in hopes that our performance and tenacity would demonstrate our value and worth, we still find ourselves being accused of being “handicapped” because of our gender – without being given the chance to disprove it or recognized when we do.
This is a difficult dilemma for many- young women seen as “not as physically elite” without given the opportunity to compete. These particular young women deserve our gratitude, our respect, and the recognition that they showed up to the challenge and asked nothing in return- except the opportunity to continue serving.
There is no reason women cannot be in special operations. And there is no reason that women should not lead our troops or our nation. There are other ways to win wars than through masculine dominance. That is the irony of SF- they must be well rounded men, not just physical beasts, but intelligent, nimble, compassionate and decisive. Women can be that, too. The only reason that should keep women from being in SF is if we, women, don’t exist. We cannot fight a war “Half-Hearted” we should not live in a nation that is “Half-Hearted”. It takes all of us using our gifts as God intended in order to truly make our nation stronger.
This week marked a new chapter in my life. Following 21 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, I began my first of what I hope are many trips as a Boeing 747 First Officer with UPS. To say I began with a bit of anxiety would be an understatement. Not about my flying (well, maybe crosswind landings), but about my grasp of Part 121 operations, company expectations, and my ability to keep up with the flow of all things. As I approached ops to sign in for the first time, I made a few observations.
First, we are everywhere—yet we are not. In a career where less than 6% of the population is female (including commercial helicopter pilots), I was encouraged by the numbers I saw in person, and later heard on the radio as I hopped across the globe. The numbers were far greater than when I began flying in 1996 as a young cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy. However, I had hoped our population would be growing faster than the less than 1% per year reported by the Centre for Aviation. In truth, I’m not sure how our numbers break out across the globe or even within the U.S. as the reports are far from consistent. A 2018 Women in Aviation, International report identified that of 609,306 total pilots, 42,694 (7.01%) are women. For mechanics the numbers are even lower (2.39%). The variety and inconsistencies in the reports are indicative (at least to us at the Milieux Project) of just how difficult it is to identify, recruit, and promote women in aviation. We need to keep spreading the good word that these careers are open and waiting for all who wish to join us. More importantly, show we are there to support those beginning the adventure…for we still have barriers and biases to topple.
Second, sometimes we need to get out of our own way. It can be easy to assume glances, stares, or looks of suprise are subtle messages that we do not yet belong in the club. When I walked into ops that first day in Louisville, I received a few looks and had many walk right past my eager smile as I looked up to say hello. Was I unwelcome? Perhaps, but chances are not for the reason many assume. I’d like to think it was the apparent “new hire” air about me that made them all think “let her training Captain show her where to go”. Or more likely, they were busy and a bit tired. And most that had a moment were ready to help the fledgling new hire (Thank You!). But think about it…even if some still think girls can’t fly, why not just approach each day as if we do belong…100% (because we do). Don’t get distracted or mad, just keep moving forward and get the job done. Show up. Most importantly, don’t apologize for being awesome. I fear we sometimes look too hard for the angle or the bias that we miss the opportunity to share and educate. We need to exude our awesome and share it with others. One easy way to do that is to just be present. Try to say involved with organizations like Women in Aviation, The Ninety-Nines and many more…even if the events fall on a well earned day off or you’ve grown weary of air shows. Be visible and be present. We owe it to the supportive women and men who came before us.
Third, hearing you all out there made my spirits soar more than I expected. Keep supporting and sharing in each other’s success. Keep lifting each other up. Compete, but to make each other better, not to exclude. And the next time someone says women are too emotional to be successful in aviation, remind them the word they are looking for is passionate.
It is time to think of the fall equinox Persephone has descended back to Hades and Lilith influences our emotions again…
Today we see an equality of day and night, yet soon the darkness will overtake us. The earth tilts. Persephone descends to the underworld once again, leaving dead crops and barren fields. This is the time of the dark goddess. Call her Morrigan, Hekate, Hel, Mab, Cerridwen, Lilith. She rules all things subconscious. She […]
It was this day in history that Clara Barton left her post at the US patent office to join the ranks of the Union Army on the Antietam Battlefield. Her efforts and courage would eventually lead her to establish the United States Red Cross.
One of Clara’s observations about war and women was that if her work appeared “rough and unseemly for a woman, it should be remembered that combat was equally rough and unseemly for men”.