A Woman in a Man’s World
My first exploration into becoming a pilot was during career day while in high school. An Air Force colonel who was a pilot was speaking. His response to my presence was, “Girls don’t fly for a living.” My guidance counselor sided with the colonel, and my aviation dreams seemed dashed.
If I wasn’t going to fly, I needed a plan for my future, so that meant going to college. It was in college that I got into sports. Money was very tight, and sports gave me some opportunity for scholarships that helped pay for my books. All those years of bucking hay bales had built up my arm strength, and javelin quickly became my favorite event. Being out on the field or in the gym also eased my anxiety. My senior year I earned an All-American title.
During this time I went with a friend to see her brother in the Air Force receive his wings. There, sitting in the graduating class, was . . . a girl. After talking to her, my dream of becoming a pilot seemed attainable—until the Air Force recruiters told me they weren’t taking applications from girls. The Army also closed the door. The naval recruiter was more amiable, but even there I faced the same wall because I was a girl.
Once again I cut the military out of my plans for the future. I prayed, asking God to help me move on, but after two years, the lure of flying never went away. I realized I needed to trust in God and work hard to be ready when He sent opportunities my way. I called the Navy recruiter again and finally had my application packet for the Navy completed, submitted, and approved. I was heading to Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS)—the Navy’s boot camp for those who want to fly.
We had three girls in AOCS training, and we soon learned that being called “girls!” and “ladies!” were derogatory terms (in truth, everything was derogatory in boot camp). When I graduated from AOCS as a commissioned officer, I’d been tested and tried and had come out stronger. Habits were already forming in my life that would become invaluable instincts. Now it was time to face the next challenge, flight school.
The Navy was the first branch of the US military to put women in jets, and for the next two years, I would be the only woman in my squadrons. Although I met some closed-minded people in the Navy, I met some good ones as well and I loved my work. An aviator in the class ahead of me encouraged me with the words of Luke 18:27: “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God” (NASB). With these words in mind, combined with the demands of my training, I forged a new set of nerves and deeper determination.
At one particularly difficult point, I wrote a prayer reminding myself that my battle was to be who God made me without apology for being a woman. Journaling helped me keep perspective, and it also reminded me that God had my back and that He had put plenty of good-hearted people in my path.
When the environment seemed hostile and setbacks threatened to poison my resolve, I leaned into my Bible, especially Psalm 35:1: “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me” (NASB). I poured out my heart and my hurt and left it before the Lord. This helped keep my head clear and my heart healthy as well. My value was based solely on what God, not man, thought of me. Standing on that truth, I could weather the storms that seemed to continually roll in over the horizon.
My struggle to progress toward my dream of flying was far from over, and I often questioned myself, but I had a family who cherished me and a faith that assured me there were no second-class citizens, that we each have the same innate, inalienable dignity and right to try. I realized I had certain skills, my merit and motives to fly were sound, and my worth was determined by my Maker, not by those around me.
What limits have others put on your plans for the future?
How do you measure your worth as a person? How does God measure your worth?
What sources of encouragement help you navigate the challenges in your life? How can God’s Word encourage you?