By Sgt. Savannah Roy,
3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division
An all-female flight crew took to the skies in an HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter to participate in a fly-over for the 3rd Infantry Division change of command ceremony at Fort Stewart, GA, on June 21.
Pilots and flight paramedics from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd ID, geared up just like they would any other flight, but this flight was unique to them. It was the crew’s first time participating in an all-female flight.
The crew consisted of two HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter pilots, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Natasha Ryan and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shelby Taylor, and two flight paramedics, Sgt. Heather Kicki and Sgt. Chelsey Pcolar.
Kicki, a flight paramedic, said the flight was not about busting stereotypes or challenging the status quo, but rather about showing people what women can do in the U.S. Army.
“We showed up, got the job done and everything turned out as planned,” said Kicki. “The whole crew is outstanding, hard working females, and to be amongst them doing anything is a reward in itself.”
The Women’s Armed Service Integration Act was signed into law in 1948, giving women a permanent presence in the military, although their roles were severely restricted. On June 4, 1974, 2nd Lt. Sally Murphy became the first female U.S. Army helicopter pilot to graduate from flight school and receive her wings, paving the way for countless women to join the ranks in aviation.
“I feel proud that aviation allows a spot for all genders,” said Pcolar. “I take my job seriously, I feel the amount of responsibility as a crewmember, and I am confident in my ability to crew.”
From Murphy being the Army’s first female aviator, to women flying in combat operations since 1989, women’s roles in aviation have only continued to grow throughout the years.
“I was on a mission in Pakistan when I met two “Big Windy” [1st Battalion, 214th General Support Aviation Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade] CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots, that were women, and seeing them doing the job made me feel like it was a possibility for me,” said Ryan. “Representation surely does matter, and I’m not sure I’d be here if it wasn’t for meeting those women.”
Women have proven themselves time and again, to where women in the aviation community have made a mark on the history of U.S. Army aviation.
“Women in the Army have an unwritten code of taking care of each other,” said Taylor. “The camaraderie of being able to do something together that was impossible years ago, and doing it well, it’s hard to put that feeling into words.”
All four crew members hope to send the same message to young females and aspiring pilots, that there is absolutely no place that women do not belong.
“We went to breakfast after the flight, and a young girl came up to us and asked if even the girls fight for our country,” said Ryan. “It was a little disheartening because I realized at some point in her little 5 year-old life she had already been conditioned to believe women didn’t necessarily belong in this role. We talked to her for a bit and by the end of it she said that she wanted to be just like us.”
Women in aviation have come a long way since the days of 2nd Lt. Sally Murphy and those that followed in her footsteps, with all of them breaking down barriers so that today’s women only have the sky as their limit.