Here Are Five More Female Pilots Fox News Should Highlight
It's been a week since "Boobs on the Ground"-Gate. What have we learned? Not enough.
There were plenty of firsts in last week's airstrikes against the "Islamic State" in Syria, including the first combat mission for U.S. Air Force's stealthy F-22 Raptor. The campaign included a first for women: Major Mariam al-Mansouri, a fighter pilot in the United Arab Emirates Air Force, led a flight of F-16s during the operation. Mansouri quickly became a media sensation, particularly in light of the Islamic State's horrific campaign of terror against women.
Fox News' nightly program, "The Five," famously let its salute to Mansouri sink into adolescent one-liners. Greg Gutfeld implied that Mansour couldn't park her F-16. Co-host Eric Bolling quipped, "Would this be considered 'boobs on the ground'?"
Bolling apologized for his remarks on Friday, but by then, the damage was done. Jon Stewart skewered Fox News during his Thursday segment, aptly stating "F—- you and all your false patriotism". Meanwhile, letters from angry veterans and service members poured in, including an open letter from the progressive think-tank, The Truman Project, signed by 60 service members and veterans.
In the US military, women fly combat aircraft in every branch of the Armed Forces, a result of decades' worth of women proving themselves in the cockpit. Here are five female aviators—military and civilian—Fox News may also want to consider highlighting in the future. Sans the snide commentary, of course.
1) Lt. Colonel Kim "Killer Chick" Campbell
April 7, 2003, was a bad day over Baghdad for then-Captain Kim Campbell, an A-10 pilot in the 75th Fighter Squadron, formerly based in Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
Capt. Campbell was flying close air support for troops in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, then making its final push into Baghdad. The ground troops had run into heavy resistance near a major bridge over the Tigris River. Without the bridge, U.S. forces couldn't push on to Baghdad.
Capt. Campbell dove her A-10 toward Iraqi forces less than a quarter of a mile from U.S. troops and unleashed several hundred rounds from its 30mm "Avenger" cannon. She made several more passes before a surface-to-air missile exploded near her jet, riddling the aircraft with shrapnel. Faced with the decision to eject in the middle of a hostile city or limp her aircraft to safety, Capt. Campbell chose to fly her A-10 nearly 300 miles back to Kuwait.
Even with most of her flight controls and hydraulics badly damaged, Capt. Campbell still managed to bring her bullet-ridden A-10 back to her base in Kuwait. For her effort, she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
2) Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs)
In 1977, the US Air Force announced that it would allow women to train as pilots for the first time.
That wasn't exactly true. During the Second World War, more than 1,000 women flew fighters and bombers around the United States. These "WASPs" helped facilitate training exercises for the Army Air Corps. In doing so, they freed up male pilots for combat duty during World War Two.
Though the WASPs never flew in combat, 38 died in accidents. But because the Pentagon considered the WASPs civil servants, not service members, the women weren't even authorized to have a flag draped over their coffins.
Through a grassroots campaign, however, the WASPs were granted full veterans' status in 1977 and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
3) Maj. General Laura Richardson
Maj. Gen. Laura Richardson (pictured here as a one-star general) is neither the first female Army officer to wear stars nor the highest-ranking. But she is the first woman to wear stars and pilot's wings. After commanding an assault helicopter battalion with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and serving as a military spokeswoman in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Richardson now serves as the Army's chief of legislative affairs in Washington.
Maj. Gen. Richardson is the first of many female aviators working their way up the Army's ranks. Colonel Carey Wagen—like Richardson, an Army Black Hawk pilot—commands a brigade of helicopters at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas. Wagen, a veteran of Afghanistan, was videotaped in 2010 balancing her UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on one of its wheels while unloading troops onto a mountainside in Afghanistan.
4) TIE: Amelia Earhart and Amelia Earhart
Not to belittle the accomplishments of the world's most famous aviatrix, but we've all heard the story of Amelia Earhart (1897-1937): A pioneer of aviation, Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in her Lockheed Electra, never to be seen again.
Fast forward to this summer, when Earhart's modern counterpart, Amelia Rose Earhart of Denver (no relation), completed her namesake's fateful journey around the world in a single-engine Pilatus PC-12 at age 31, becoming the youngest pilot to ever do so.
The younger Earhart isn't content to rest on her laurels just yet. Recently, she established the Fly With Amelia Foundation to fund flight training programs and STEM scholarships for women between the ages of 16 and 18.
5) Captain Kimberly Hampton
Kimberly Hampton grew up in a small town in South Carolina, where she was her high school's student body president and a top-seed tennis player. After graduating from college, Hampton was commissioned as a second lieutenant and learned to fly the Army's OH-58D reconnaissance helicopter.
Hampton was a trailblazer within Army Aviation, one of the first women to command an air cavalry troop, and possibly the first within the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division.
Sadly, Hampton has the unfortunate distinction of being America's first female pilot killed in action, as well as the first female paratrooper killed in combat. On January 2, 2004, she was scanning the rooftops of Fallujah for a sniper when a shoulder-fired missile locked on to her helicopter, shattering the tiny aircraft's tailboom and sending it careening out of control.
Like the other women on this list, she was a capable, accomplished woman whose professionalism exploded stereotypes. Like all pilots—male or female—she strapped into her aircraft on her final mission fully aware of the risks. That's the same spirit Major Mansouri brought with her on her first combat flight this past week. The ground-pounders at Fox News trivialized her at their own peril.
Crispin Burke is a US Army Aviator stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. Follow him on Twitter at @CrispinBurke. His views are his own and not those of the US Department of Defense.