First Female C-17 Aircraft Commander Retires

Air Force Reservist Lt. Col. Debi Rieflin, the first female C-17 aircraft commander, retired Oct. 27 after 31 years in the Air Force and 21 years in the C-17’s cockpit, according to a JB Charleston, S.C., release. In 1983 when Rieflin commissioned, the Air Force was only accepting 25 female pilots out of 1,000 available spots. On top of that, only 15 of USAF’s 37 Globemaster IIIs at the time that were not designated for combat and the 25 female pilots were only eligible to fly the non-combat planes. “There were plenty of skeptics out there, doubting that women should fly, let alone whether they could or not,” said Rieflin, a 315th Operation Support Squadron instructor pilot. “I encountered biases along the way, but refused to let them prove true.” For her final flight, Rieflin planned an all-female crew to coincide with her retirement ceremony—which included another C-17 flight with “her most cherished stick mates,” states the release. “I never had the chance to be part of an all-female crew during my career to date, and I wanted to share the experience just once with the women I am so proud to be associated with,” she said.