The sky is limitless

  • Published
  • By Venessa Armenta

Every March the United States observes Women's History Month to honor the achievements and contributions women of all backgrounds have made in our country. Through the contributions of these women, many doors have been opened for the modern generation.

Recent studies indicate more diverse teams tend to be more efficient, many industries have benefited from this cultural shift, including the U.S. Air Force. Career fields across the branch have seen an increase in women entering previously male-dominated professions, including fighter squadrons. Among them is Capt. Audrey Wilson,95th Fighter SquadronF-35A Lightning II pilot, who knew at an early age that she wanted a military career.

"When I was a junior in high school, I went to a recruiting office,” explained Wilson. “Initially, I wanted to do pararescue, but realized I had the bone density of a chicken, so the recruiters suggested that I explore becoming a pilot. It was from there that I decided to go the college route and join [the Reserve Officers' Training Corps] with the mindset of wanting to pursue becoming a pilot. However, I didn't necessarily want to be a pilot; I wanted to commit myself to a run mission set in the military." 

Though aviation is historically a male-dominated field, Wilson says this is changing, as there has been a significant societal shift in large part thanks to evolving leadership and women joining the career field.

"We are at a time in aviation where a lot of women have adapted the field and made impactful changes to make more space," explained Wilson.

Wilson recalls being one of 15 female pilots at her first A-10 squadron at Osan Air Base, making up a quarter of the team, with a woman occupying a leadership role at every level. Currently, she is the only female pilot assigned to the 95th FS, but Wilson mentions how the rest of her team has been more than welcoming. The 95th FS is smaller in size compared to others due to the recent establishment of the squadron as Tyndall completed a mission transition last year.

Wilson mentions how she has been fortunate to have not faced much push back. In her experience, the most significant challenge for women in the field is the fact that not everything is designed with them in mind.

"If something is not catering to you, or something is working against you, it's very rarely a malicious thing. The biggest challenge is learning that all you need to do is speak up because odds are they just don't know that something's missing," Wilson said. "Once you find the right tact to speak up to the right people, it's amazing how quickly they will move the world to make room for you." 

Wilson caveats this statement by saying she understands this may be uncomfortable. Still, people don't always know what is not brought to their attention, which is the advice she would give anyone interested in entering the aviation field.

"It's okay to ask for changes. It's not something you should be afraid of or feel bad about. It's just an adaptation that needs to happen to make room for everybody,” said Wilson.

Wilson has had the privilege of having many female role models throughout her career.

"I don't like to think of role models as far-off people you've never met," stated Wilson. "They are people in your life that you get to see, work with and do the things you hope to do. My weapons officer at my first squadron was the first female instructor I had. It was exciting to see how much commonality we had. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from somebody who looked and experienced the world like me. It made me want to be in that position for someone else."