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A rare opportunity to meet American heros of WWII at the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
The 14th annual WASP museum anniversary will be celebrated on 25 MAY 2019 at the Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Four of the original WASP women pilots, ages 97-105, will be available for Questions & Answers from 2-4 pm.
Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service, will be the keynote luncheon speaker. Leavitt made history as the first female Air Force fighter pilot. In 1992, Leavitt was at the top of her pilot training class, but limited to what she could fly due to Air Force restrictions. One year later, the defense department dropped restrictions on women flying combat aircraft, and she was able to fly the F-15, her original choice. She has more than 3,000 flight hours including 300 combat hours over Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2016, she became the first woman to head the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
I had the opportunity to have a private tour of the WASP museum in March as I drove across the country to relocate to Montgomery, AL where my husband is now working with The Leadership Development Center at Air University.
I am impressed with the WASP museum’s commitment to keeping this important yet relatively unknown part of American history alive and well. I believe this anniversary event will be one of the last chances to celebrate this gathering with as many of the original members.
More than 25,000 women applied, 1,830 women were accepted into the program and trained as WASP pilots during the war so all male pilots could be deployed. These women not only tested aircraft, ferried aircraft from the manufacturer sites to the bases across the USA, but also trained other pilots. They flew the front plane in target practice where the male pilots used live ammunition on them! They flew over 60 million miles; transported every type of military aircraft; towed targets for live anti-aircraft gun practice; simulated strafing missions and transported cargo. Thirty-eight WASP members lost their lives and one disappeared while on a ferry mission, her fate still unknown as of 2018. In 1977, for their World War II service, the members were granted veteran status, and in 2009 awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
These brave women volunteered for duty, took the same rigorous course load as the men, as well as studied additional courses on etiquette and beauty.
The museum has done a fine job of preserving personal stories as well as planes, barracks and uniforms of these patriotic women who volunteered to serve.
I have been speaking on the topic of leadership for over a decade to corporate, military, non-profit and academic audiences. My grandfather was a sergeant in the Air Force in the photo corp and my grandmother served in the/ as a WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service in the Navy. I recognize this event as an opportunity to educated both the women and men of the Air Force as well as upcoming generations to this remarkable chapter in the Air Force’s history.
The WASP story is women’s history, but also it represents a proud moment in American History by highlighting an innovative solution to a complex situation; redefining gender roles and expanding the mindset of popular and military culture.