Girls Fly Too Airshow re-instills love for the job

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Elizbeth Denton
  • 92 Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Flight suits are made different- just like the Airmen who wear them. When choosing to become a pilot, I had a vague understanding of what I was signing up for. I agreed to a career with an office in the sky and a 10 year commitment. Through years of training and tragedies I grew a little tarnished, but at the Girls Fly Too Airshow, I was reminded how honored I am to wear this flight suit. Not for what it represents, but for who it represents. It stands for the people we’ve lost and the people yet to come.

I felt the weight of the profession through my first demanding years at Undergraduate Pilot Training. Along with lack of sleep, we were pushed to study more, and train harder to learn a craft we had zero knowledge on. During training, the flight suit felt like a heavy burden I was thankful to take off at the end of the day—and not just for the sweaty summers. Though at times we felt inadequate, we finally became subject matter experts on a plane we had minimal hours in. The weight was carried.

During my time at Vance Air Force Base, the reality of what we signed up for became a reality. On my T-1 Jayhawk check ride, I witnessed an aircraft accident with two casualties. In 2020, the base was hit with another tragedy when we lost a friend and classmate. This profession carries a heavy weight. Suddenly, numbers and documents became much more than cramming information, they became fatal limits. The weight was carried; here’s a toast.

The Girls Fly Too Airshow reminded me that even on the bad days, this profession is worth it. This airshow changed more than my perspective on my uniform; it changed my mindset. It changed the way I view my coworkers, my peers, and myself.

The most memorable moment for me was when a little girl with a unicorn headband walked into my cockpit, climbed into the co-pilot seat, and said, “I want to be a pilot!” Who knew a tiny statement could be so profound. That moment made it all worth it. After many similar conversations with young girls, their family members, and joint forces, I was reminded I have the best job in the Air Force. The airshow motivated me to be the best pilot I can be. Their dreams have inspired me to be an example for the younger generation. My life is more than my own. There are people behind me, just as there were women ahead of me that have made a lasting impact on my life. Their leadership encouraged me to step out, and the younger girls gave me courage to step up and be the person they deserve to see.

I still have a long way to go—but this airshow gave me the perspective to look how far I have come, and look forward to what’s to come. Someone said it’s easier to become something you already have an example for. So here’s to the examples: Lt. Col.  Hildebrand, Maj. Foster, Maj. Bates, Capt. Gromowski and Capt. Herrera, thank you for being leaders I look up to. I would not be here today without you. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have flown beside great leaders like them. Here’s to being half the example and last but not least, here’s to the future generation of flight suit wearers. Carry the weight well. Flight suits are made different, but so are the people who wear them.