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Historical All-Female Flight Takes Place Aboard USS Carl Vinson

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120127-05
1/27/2012

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Rosa A. Arzola, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Five "Tigertails" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125, embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) as part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, made a historic flight Jan. 25 when they flew the Navy's first all-female E-2C Hawkeye combat mission flight.

Plane commander Lt. Cmdr. Tara Refo, mission commander Lt. Cmdr. Brandy Jackson, pilot Lt. Ashley Ruic, control officer Lt. Nydia Driver, and radar operator Lt. j.g. Ashley Ellison flew an E-2C Hawkeye - the all-weather, carrier-based tactical battle management airborne early warning and command and control aircraft.

Although women were allowed inside the cockpit after the Women's Armed Service Integration Act of 1948, it wasn't until 1993, that female naval aviators were assigned to fly with combat squadrons. Then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, Jr., opened combat aviation to female aviators and opened enlisted aircrew positions for shore-based combat squadrons.

"I never had the opportunity to fly with another female pilot except once," Ruic said. "It's nice to be part of history, not just because we are females, but because we are also close friends. It was a unique experience."

Ruic explained the all-female crew launch took place because the only two female pilots assigned to the squadron, Refo and Ruic, had non-conflicting schedules. This allowed the pilots and crew to coordinate the event.

The number of female pilots through the fleet is small but growing, Refo noted.

"I was the first female pilot in one of my previous squadrons," she said. "So now that we have five women in the same squadron, with varying rank and experience, it is gratifying and exciting to experience."

The opportunities opened up by women aviators like Lt. Cmdr. Kathryn Hire, the first female aviator assigned to a combat aircrew, have allowed many females to pursue their dreams with no limitations.

"I always wanted to be a Navy pilot since high school," Ruic said. "I knew a lot of Vietnam veteran Navy pilots who were friends of my dad."

After the flight, Jackson expressed interest in repeating this event should the opportunity arise.

"We are getting a new female naval flight officer soon, and we can't wait for her to join us as we continue to make history as naval aviators," she said.

Carl Vinson and CVW-17 are conducting maritime theater security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.



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