Fighter pilot requests permission to buzz the tower of inequality

Story and photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Representative Bella Abzug once said, “Women will not simply be mainstreamed into the polluted stream.  Women are changing the stream, making it clean and green and safe for all – every gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, age and ability.”

Soldiers and Airmen gathered to celebrate the anniversary of women’s suffrage at the Women’s Equality Day Luncheon Aug. 26 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Women’s Equality Day legislation was introduced by Abzug and established in 1971 by President Jimmy Carter, and honors the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote Aug. 26, 1920.

“It’s an important day,” said Master Sgt. Scott Shockley, the equal opportunity adviser for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), “and we want to get people out to celebrate that.”

The event, sponsored by the 13th SC(E) EO office, featured a poem reading by Capt. Neola Alston of the 49th Transportation Battalion and a performance by the Provider Chapel Inspirational Dance Team.

The keynote speaker for the day was Air Force Maj. Gina Sabric, the chief of flight safety for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilot.

“It’s kind of a big thank you to the women who have come before us,” said Sabric, a Tobyhanna, Pa., native.

In her speech, Sabric spoke about the history of women in the U.S. military.

“We have served in every major conflict since the Civil War,” said Sabric.

Sabric said women were not officially allowed in the military until 1901; therefore early involvement was in an unofficial capacity.

In 1942, women first began flying in the military as Air Force service pilots. Sabric said she owes her career to those women.

“It’s that generation prior to me that has let me do the great things that I have done today,” she said.

In 1995, two years after the ban on women fighter pilots was lifted, Sabric became the fifth female fighter pilot in the Air Force. She has since flown more than 1,800 hours and served in Operation Allied Force, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle.

There were challenges in the beginning, said Sabric, but things are now equal in the aviation world.

“It’s about performance, not about gender,” said Sabric.

Roughly 30 service members took part in an essay contest held by the EO office in observance of Women’s Equality Day. At the end of the luncheon, Brig. Gen. Paul L. Wentz, commander of the 13th SC(E), presented certificates of achievement to the writers of the top three submissions.


news photo
Air Force Maj. Gina Sabric, an F-16 pilot with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, speaks on the history of women's right to vote and women in the military, particularly as pilots, during the Women's Equality Day Luncheon Aug. 26 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.