Soaring into danger

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — A Soldier is a Soldier, and war knows no gender bias when it comes to those, on the ground or in the air, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"People end up noticing [females] more," Spc. Jenna Hill, flight crew chief for Company C, 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation, said. "[We] have to really know [our] job a little bit better and know how to present ourselves."

Three Soldiers from the 1st Bn., 244th Avn. are changing the way aviation units view female pilots and crew chiefs one mission at a time.

"[Females] have to prove themselves a lot more than a man does," said Chief Warrant Officer Michelle Murphy, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot with Company A.

Murphy is no stranger to having to prove herself in male-dominated careers. She began piloting 12 years ago and, at home in Baton Rouge, La. she is also a police officer.

"When a female first comes to a unit, she has to prove herself. There are a lot of questions and concerns [about abilities]. Once she has proved herself, she's accepted as a peer." Murphy said. "It's not that bad now. I don't think there's anybody that wouldn't want to fly with any of us."

Chief Warrant Officer Wayne Griffin, UH-60 Black Hawk pilot with Co. A, said in his opinion, Murphy was a good pilot who was competent and he was comfortable flying with her.

Despite the feeling of having to demonstrate their abilities more often, the female aviators face the same dangers as male pilots.

"As far as flying, other than the threat itself of the war environment that we're all in, we also have [power and telephone] wires we have to be aware of [when flying], engine problems and other types of maintenance problems and the aircraft itself," Murphy said about common problems all pilots face here. This means having to put in additional maintenance hours to ensure the aircraft's safety.

"We don't get to walk away from the aircraft at the end of the day," Hill said.

"Everybody over here stays mission focused. If that means we have to stay out here several hours after the flights are over, that is what has to happen."

Their dedication to doing the job well is a fulfilling feeling.

"It's a good source of pride whenever you look back at the previous day or week and say 'I am really tired, but the mission has gone forward and has been successful,'" Hill said.

The work schedule is long and requires an attention to detail, but they enjoy their jobs and think they have the best jobs in the Army.

"I try to have a good time in everything I'm doing," said 1st Lt. Paige Shoun, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot with Co. A. "It's hard to have a bad flight. Even if I have a bad flight, it's still better than not flying."

Shoun thinks female pilots and their contributions as role models are not just for women, but their examples can benefit anyone.

"I think [it shows] anyone who wants to fly that they can do it," Shoun said. "If there is something they ever thought about doing, [they ought] to give it a shot."

Aviation units are on the forefront of combat, flying in and out of dangerous situations each day. Those who face the dangers are no longer just men, they include women as well as these pilots prove everyday.

 

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Chief Warrant Officer Michelle Murphy, Co. A, 1st Bn., 244th Avn., grabs her flight log at the end of another day's mission. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Abel Trevino)

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - 1st Lt. Paige Shoun, Company A, 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation, adjusts her night vision goggles in the UH-60 Black Hawk she is piloting with Chief Warrant Officer Michelle Murphy, Co. A, 1st Bn., 244th Avn.. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Abel Trevino)