Women with Wings Part Two

By: Deborah Tuff
By: Deborah Tuff

In 1974, the Navy admitted its first female aviator. The Army followed suit and two years later the Air Force also allowed women to train and become pilots.

The only problem: they weren't allowed to fly in combat.

However, 1993 served as a groundbreaking moment when the Secretary of Defense ordered combat aircraft assignments be open to women.

News 4 spoke with two majors at Eglin Air Force Base and asked if the decision has made things easier or harder for them.

Major Michelle Pruce and Major Christina Willard have 20 years of experience combined.

Though they're women and high-ranking officers, they say the hardest part about their jobs wasn't their gender.

Major Christina Willard is a navigator in the 9th Special Operation Squadron of Eglin Air Force Base.

"As a navigator, basically what we do is tell the pilot where to go," Major Willard explains.

Plus, she tells the pilot where to go in the MC-130 P Combat Shadow Navigator, which duties include air refueling, psychological operation and leaflet drops.

The love for her job now, dates back to her childhood. "Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to fly," Major Willard Continues.

Major Willard had to work her way up the ranks and last year, her decade anniversary came in the form of being pinned major.

Major Willard says she enjoys the tranquility of flying and like her, 19.7 percent of the female population in the Air Force seemingly feel the same.

Joining in those statistics is 8th Fighter Squadron F-15 Eagle Pilot Major Melissa Pruce.

As chief of security for the 33rd Fighter Wing, Pruce says it’s no surprise if you see her flying in the air to defend the president.

"It's an amazing experience to be a part of something like that. Going up getting airborne on any given day. It's wonderful to know you're part of something much bigger than yourself," says Major Pruce.

She was inspired in high school and says the demands of her job came in the form of exercise.

"My biggest challenge probably has been the same as anyone else's who has been in the Air Force. Going through the daily rigors of the training we're all put under," says Major Pruce.

On the other hand, Major Willard says her biggest challenge was fitting in. "Once you find your role it becomes a little bit easier," she concludes.

So what advice could both women give to aspiring military pilots, especially females?

Dream big, and don't let anyone tell you no.

Both women are married and when we spoke with Major Willard about retirement, she says the idea of working in the civilian world is "scary".

Although she's aided in the war on terror, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Martha McSally is the nation’s highest-ranking female fighter pilot.


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