Female Tanker Crew Flies SWA Combat:

The number of women aircrew members in the Air Force has risen greatly over the years, but it is still rare to have all-women crews. A trio of women managed to come together March 18 to fly a refueling mission over Southwest Asia, helping mark National Women’s History Month. Maj. Leslie Picht, aircraft commander, 1st Lt. Cindy Dawson, co-pilot, and SrA. Killian Lange, boom operator, refueled an EA-6 and two F-18s. Remarking on theater operational changes, Picht said: “Five years ago when I was a co-pilot deployed to Saudi Arabia, female pilots or boom operators sometimes could not get controllers to acknowledge them on the radios. I would intentionally lower my voice for radio calls to prevent any problems. … It’s nice to see our progress in racial and gender equality is not just a national progression, but we are now changing the norms internationally by our presence.” (An all female C-130 airlifter crew flew a combat sortie in 2005.) Boomer Lange, who is on her third deployment, said that women flying is no longer “shocking” to most people, especially civilians, who think everyone in the Air Force flies airplanes. She added that she never expected to join the military, but, “once I became interested in joining, I knew I wanted to do a flying job.” (SWA report by SrA. Carolyn Viss)