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NEWS | March 19, 2021

437th AW conducts all-female flights for Women’s History Month

By Diana Cossaboom Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Women assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing conducted two all-female flights to commemorate Women’s History Month at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, March 15 and 17.

The first all-female C-17 flight crew conducted an aerial refueling with a KC-135 from the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and carried 20 women assigned to various units across Joint Base Charleston.

The second flight included two all-female crews who piloted a two-ship C-17 formation, where they flew to Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, to conduct an airdrop with 80 female 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, and an aerial refueling with a KC-135 also from the 171st ARW.

Due to weather constraints, the airdrop portion was canceled for the safety of the paratroopers.

“The fact that it is an all-female aircrew in both jets and it’s all female jumpers is a huge deal because all of these women have gone through so many hurdles in order to be in their positions, be qualified, and be the tactical air women that they are,” said Capt. Alisha Stroble, 16th Airlift Squadron deputy chief of tactics and C-17 pilot.

Females make up approximately 20 percent of the Air Force and 15 percent of the Army. Of the 20 percent of females in the Air Force, approximately 1 percent are pilots.

“It’s really incredible to celebrate all the women who have gone before us, and open these doors for us that we [now] can put together a mission completely crewed by females in what is typically a more male setting,” said Staff Sgt. Rachel Pye, 4th Combat Camera Squadron aerial photojournalist.

In 1975, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David C. Jones, launched a test program that would enable women to enter pilot training and staff the all-volunteer force. By Sept. 26, 1976, 10 women began pilot training and trail blazed the future of women in the Air Force.

“When we speak of dreaming like a girl, we are saying that the scope of we can do is limitless," said Chief Master Sgt. Charmaine Kelley, 437th Airlift Wing command chief. "When I’d first come in the Air Force 24 years ago, I’d never come in contact with a female pilot, female Loadmaster or female Maintainer. Now, here I am in 2021 on the C-17 fully loaded with empowered women who not only fixed, but also flew and controlled the skies and the runway when we’d landed. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.”

“Being on this jump means to me empowerment,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Tonya Sims, command sergeant major for the 407th Brigade Support Battalion. “It lets me know that the 82nd Airborne Division, Center of the Universe, sees me and hears me. They know that I can and I will get it done.”