HC-130J Combat King II first all-female flight
By 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson, 23d Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 09, 2019
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- For some people, making history is not about what they’re doing but instead why they’re doing it.
On Sept. 6, 2019, six Airmen from the 347th Rescue Group completed the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew. While most would be excited just to make history, this crew’s “why” is less about the recognition but more about representation.
“We don’t want to be noticed for being women,” said Senior Airmen Rachel Bissonnette, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster. “Any person who meets the bar can be an aircrew member. What we want is for the girls who think they can’t do it, to know that they can.”
For the squadron and its leadership, recognition was not the goal of this flight either. “We just never had enough women in all the aircrew positions to make it happen,” said Lt. Col. Jesse Enfield, 71st RQS commander. “When I started flying the HC-130 in 2004 there were no female aircraft commanders or navigators in our squadron.”
Enfield went on to detail that while the number of female aircrew members is on the rise and that events like this are important to continue to normalize women in aviation.
“We need women aviators just like we need women doctors, teachers, police officers, etcetera, because gender doesn’t determine your ability to be in the air,” Enfield said. “We need women in aviation, not because they are women, but because they are human beings with ideas, with drive, and with commitment.”
This may have been a first in Moody and the Air Force history but all involved hope it has a positive effect on the female aviators to come.
“I hope there are high school and middle school girls who see this flight and know they can be a part of something amazing,” said Enfield. “I hope this flight raises interest in the Air Force rescue mission, and that people who want to serve and truly save lives think about joining the Air Force to fulfill the rescue motto: These things we do, that others may live.”
History is full of firsts and while it is important to document these moments, it is just as important, if not more, to capture the “why.” The crew and leadership from the 347th Rescue Group expressed that their “why” has more to do with future than it does the past.