The First-Ever Female Enlisted Pilot Has Graduated From Air Force Training

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Earlier in August, the first-ever female pilot enlisted in the Air Force graduated from the service's Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Training — and made history in the process.

Tech. Sgt. Courtney (the Air Force has only provided her first name for security reasons) graduated from the remotely-piloted aircraft program at the Joint Base in San Antonio-Randolph, Texas on Aug. 4. Courtney is part of the small "Enlisted Pilot Initial Class," which represents the first class of pilots the Air Force has enlisted in 70 years (since World War II). Prior to this initial pilot enlistment, the Air Force used commissioned officers as pilots, but did not specifically enlist candidates to enter pilot training.

As The Daily Republic reported, the Air Force announced in December 2015 that it would begin enlisting pilots to fly remote aircraft for reconnaissance missions. 12 candidates were selected for this elite enlistment — and Courtney was one of them. Courtney, along with her comrades, trained for six months to become an RPA pilot.

However, while Courtney's accomplishment is certainly historic, as the Air Force has never before had a female enlisted pilot, one of Courtney's instructors, Maj. Natalie, pointed out that it is also important to remember that Courtney accomplished this feat because of her individual prowess, regardless of her gender. Natalie expounded in an interview with the Air Force's Public Affairs office, saying

Tech. Sgt. Courtney doesn’t do this because she’s a girl, she just gets up every day and puts her uniform on and comes to work and kicks butt because that’s what she does ... That’s who she is. She’s not a woman pilot, she’s a pilot.

That being said, Courtney is also (deservedly) proud of the fact that she is making history as the first female enlisted pilot, while also recognizing that her individual talent was key to her success. In a statement via the Air Force, as reported by The Daily Republic, Courtney stated,

It’s great to fill that role as the first female ... It’s awesome and humbling, but our units don’t care if you’re male or female, they just want you to be a good pilot.

According to the The Daily Republic, Courtney has 11 years of experience working in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance field, in roles including an imagery analyst and a sensor operator. It will be incredibly exciting to watch as she transitions to her new role as an enlisted Air Force pilot, serving her country and making history at the same time. And undoubtedly, the fact that she's the Air Force's first female enlisted pilot will inspire young girls everywhere to pursue their own dreams.