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All-female crew supports “The Sky’s No Limit: Girls Fly Too” outreach event in Canada

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Kaitlin Cashin
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Seven women from Team Dyess took off in a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Oct. 1, 2021, in support of the world’s largest gender diversity outreach initiative in aviation, aerospace, marine and defense, “The Sky’s No Limit: Girls fly too.”

The “Achieve Anything Foundation” event included the U.S. Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Municipal Police Forces, local and international search and rescue organizations, first responders, civilian companies, educational institutions, and the Canadian armed forces. The event took place at the Abbotsford International Airport, Canada, on Oct. 1 – 3, 2021.

The all-female crew consisted of two loadmasters, two crew chiefs, two pilots, and one public affairs officer. While there, the aviation professionals had the opportunity to provide hands-on experience to visitors, share their passion for their role on the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, and serve as an example to young people considering career fields in aviation and the military. 

During opening remarks, Kristen Brazier, Founder of Achieve Anything and event coordinator, said, “If we are going to fix gender diversity in STEM fields, you can’t do it with booths and brochures,” said Kirsten Brazier, Achieve Anything founder and event coordinator. “You have to put tools in girls’ hands, get them up in the air, and let women experience these things.

“What you see today is the result of a robust international partnership between the United States and Canada.” Brazier added.

Throughout the two-day event, approximately 20,000 curious visitors passed through the C-130J aircraft, lining the cargo compartment from loading ramp to the flight deck. Some enthusiasts traveled as far as three hours away. 

“These C-130 ladies gave the best display out of everyone in the show,” said an attendee from Abbotsford, Canada. “I visited the first day, but came back to bring my daughter the second day because the all-female crew was so engaging.”

As participants walked through the aircraft, loadmasters gave children the chance to strap into harnesses and loadmaster chairs to demonstrate what a day in the life of an aircrew is like. They also showed attendees videos of paratroopers jumping out of the planes. 

“I am extremely passionate about what I do as an aviator,” said Airman 1st Class Lacey Thompson, 317th Airlift Wing loadmaster. “Seeing these kids reminds me how unique of an experience the Air Force is, and how much I love the C-130J model.”

Many visitors had questions about equipment and the plane.

Staff Sgt. Nicole Worthing, 317th Airlift Wing crew chief, explained her role as a maintainer to attendees, “It’s my job to fix the plane. I know this machine like the back of my hand, and there’s nothing I haven’t seen.” 

Of course, the flight deck was one of the biggest attractions for kids and visitors. Two Dyess pilots invited attendees to sit in the coveted pilot seat and explore the numerous buttons on the control panel. 

Several parents benchmarked the women as a role model to their kids. “You don’t have to be a dump truck driver like Daddy,” one father said to his six-year-old daughter. “You can drive cargo all around the world as a pilot like her if you want to!”

Between stories of distant travels and fielding questions about equipment, the crew also had the chance to connect with Canadian forces and aircrew, exchanging stories and patches.

“It was so much fun to be able to stand beside our Canadian counterparts to inspire a future generation of aviators,” said Senior Airman Meghan Irvin, 39th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “Trading patches is one of my favorite parts of these missions. They carry a lot of meaningful memories and represent the connections we made.”

Ambassador D. Brent Hardt, U.S. Consul General, noted the 14 U.S. aircraft in attendance of the event and conveyed the importance of North American partnerships at the local and international level.

“STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is a shared interest and supports the roadmap for a renewed U.S. - Canada partnership,” Hardt said. “What a wonderful reaffirmation of our shared commitment to promoting gender diversity in the STEM fields.”

Hands-on experience, female role models, international friendships, and putting tools in young people’s hands was exactly what the Dyess crew offered visitors at “The Sky’s No Limit.” 

“Opportunities like this are the best part of the job,” said Maj. Caitlin Teresky, 39th AS pilot. “When we have the chance to travel and inspire others, it makes the long tough days out in the field worthwhile.”