Shining a light on women in aviation

Story and photos by Airman 1st Class Milton Hamilton
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Chloe Perrow, Ramstein High School student, sits in a static display of a C-21 Learjet at a Young Women in Aviation Day event on Ramstein Air Base, March 9. A group of approximately 100 students from various schools around the Kaiserslautern Military Community came to Ramstein to learn about the ranging careers of women working in the aviation field.

The first annual Young Women in Aviation Day just so happened to perfectly fall during Women’s History Month, March 9.

A group of approximately 100 students from various schools around the Kaiserslautern Military Community came to Ramstein to learn about the ranging careers of women working in the aviation field.

Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander, spoke briefly to the students and highlighted some accomplishments and contributions of women in the Air Force and in aviation.

After August’s speech, students met several female air crew, toured static displays, the fire department, and the control tower.

“The main focus of us being here today is to grow interest in aviation, specifically for women, but there are more than just women here,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michelle Barker, U.S. Air Forces in Europe near term future plans branch chief.

Barker said there is a clear deficit of pilots, but the focus of the Young Women in Aviation Day is to shed light on the aviation career field as a whole, from the women who work for the 86th Security Forces Squadron’s “Ravens,” who fly with the pilots, to the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

“These young girls are asking questions and are able to see what’s possible in multiple aspects of aviation, such as fire-fighting, maintenance, flying the aircraft or working in the tower,” said 1st Lt. Ariel Brown, 480th Fighter Squadron wingman, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. “It’s really good they’re presenting not only the glorified version of being a pilot, but all aspects that go into it.”

When asked if this type of representation was available when she was growing up, Brown said, there was not a lot of representation for women in flying, in general, she was interested in it, but didn’t know the many possible career fields in aviation either.

Whether students wanted to be a pilot or not, the coordinators of Young Women in Aviation Day wanted to make sure each student that came to the event, could find something that peaked their interest.

Jordyn Kline, an 11-year-old Kaiserslautern Middle School student, said she came to the event for the airplanes, but after asking questions to a flight attendant, she decided that it is a career field she would like to explore.

“This is our opportunity to have an open house-like event that is geared towards specific folks, that affords them an opportunity to have really focused one-on-one conversations with experts in the aviation field,” said Barker.

The KMC students weren’t afraid to be hands-on or ask critical questions.

“I think this event makes a difference, you can see the sparkle in the children’s eyes,” said Barker. “They get to look in the airplanes, they get a patch, a goody-bag and get to ask questions.”

The Young Women in Aviation Day coordinators are hopeful they can hold this event in 2020, capitalizing off the momentum of a successful first run.

“I think this is something that should be enduring, something we can do annually to help people maintain interest in aviation,” said Barker.

The overall consensus of the coordinators and the parents of the students who attended, was that the event offered a much needed glance into the lives of professional women in aviation. It was an eye-opener for the young girls who were interested in any aspect of flight.

“I’m really glad this event is being held on Ramstein, it would be cool if in twenty years we see some of these girls flying,” said Brown.

Airman 1st Class Kayla Jerido, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, shows Lucena Hanna her fire protection gear during Young Women in Aviation Day on Ramstein Air Base, March 9. Jerido showed how fast she could put on her suit and equipment, while also showing the many instruments that protect her during a fire.
Airman 1st Class Kayla Harper, 52nd Maintenance Group crew chief, Spangdahlem Air Base, shows a Kaiserslautern Military Community school student the specifications of an F-16 Fighting Falcon on Ramstein Air Base, March 9. Harper showed her knowledge of the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s compartments, while leading a hands-on tour of the aircraft.