Women Serving As Medevac Pilots, Maintenance Crew, And In Other
Women have actively supported the
U.S. military since the Revolutionary War. By providing medical
care to wounded soldiers and support to their militia men, women
introduced themselves as an asset to protecting the nation.
Today, female soldiers are offered the same jobs as male
soldiers, with the exception of combat-arms careers such as
infantry, armory and artillery.
Women, however, continue to deploy in support of operations Iraqi
Freedom and Enduring Freedom on the ground and in the air as truck
drivers, military police, field medics and Army aviation aircrew
Amelia Earhart and other female aviators paved the way for women
in the sky in the 1920s, but it wasn't until the 1970s that female
pilots were considered for U.S. military aviation programs. But
serving their country from the cockpit of fixed-wing or rotary-wing
combat aircraft still was not an option for women.
In 1993, then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin opened combat presence
from the aircraft cockpit to women, including female enlisted
In southern Afghanistan, women serve on aircrews that provide
medical evacuation throughout the combat zone. Company C, 3rd
Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade,
includes men and women among its aviators and medical specialists.
"I can't think of a better job I'd rather be doing," said Army
Chief Warrant Officer Monica Narhi, a medevac pilot. "What
motivates me is the significance and direct purpose in my job every
day; this is a great mission."
Narhi, a 10-year Army pilot, said she has wanted to be a medevac
pilot since she was a girl. A former Army aviation officer and a
veteran of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Narhi
retired her commission as a captain, but continued her military
career. She returned to Army aviation as a warrant officer to
continue pursuing her dream to be a pilot.
Photo Credit: Spc. Monica Smith, 3rd CAB,
In the late 1980s, the Army responded to the prohibition of
women being involved in combat roles -- such as directly engaging
the enemy with crew-served weapons, which excluded female
helicopter pilots from the combat zone -- by using helicopters for
transportation and medical evacuation.
Army Capt. Jennie Richey, a medevac pilot, commands of the
battalion's Company D. Her mission is to ensure the maintenance and
operability of CH-47F Chinook helicopters. "I don't change the
standards set for my soldiers or see them different from each
other," Richey said. "It doesn't matter if they are male or female;
they all work hard to accomplish their missions."
"I am who I am, and I won't
change how I command because I'm a female," Richey continued. "And
as a pilot and member of an aircrew, we see each other as just that
-- a crew; there is no difference."
Army Sgt. Christine Chaney, a flight medic with Company C,
served in the Army for more than five years. Before joining the
company, she was an emergency room nurse in Germany. "The team
provides group support to each other while on missions," Chaney
said. "It doesn't matter if it's a female medic or a male medic;
what matters are patients receiving immediate care."
Photo Credit: U.S. Army
In the combat zone, medevac crews treat not only casualties of
homemade bombs and gunshot wounds, but also servicemembers
suffering from heat stroke or injured in accidents. "The hardest
part about being a flight medic is treating injured children,"
Chaney said. "My priority is treating the patient; their life is in
Chaney said she hopes to pursue her medical degree and serve in
the Army as a physician's assistant or doctor. Many women like
Chaney have served in the military as medical specialists.
Evacuation nurses have aided in the rescue of casualties for more
than 60 years.
Army Lt. Elsie S. Ott, an air evacuation nurse in the 1940s, was
the first woman to receive the Air Medal for her performance in
support of the air evacuation mission. The Air Medal is awarded to
crew members for their performance during an aviation mission in a
Along with flight medics and pilots, Army aviation also employs
crew chiefs to assist in the maintenance and security of the
aircraft. Army Spc. Nicole Hyde, a crew chief assigned to Company
C, is responsible for helicopters' serviceability, making sure the
aircraft is ready for launch when a medevac mission is called in.
"After I've made sure the aircraft is ready, ... communication
calls, engines are operational and equipment is secure, my focus is
to assist the pilots and flight medic on board," she said.
Women now make up 15 percent of the Army, and working side by
side with their male counterparts, have expanded their footprint in
the U.S. military.