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HC-130J Combat King II first all-female flight

Capt. Leslie Weisz, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilot, initiates takeoff in an HC-130J Combat King II during the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for theater commanders for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Capt. Leslie Weisz, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilot, initiates takeoff in an HC-130J Combat King II during the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for theater commanders for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Airmen with the 347th Rescue Group pose for a photo after completing the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. From left to right: Airman 1st Class Jazmyne Lomax, Capt. Sarah Edwards, Senior Airman Rachel Bissonnette, Capt. Leslie Weisz, Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, and Capt. Jordan Barden. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson

Airmen with the 347th Rescue Group pose for a photo after completing the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. From left to right: Airman 1st Class Jazmyne Lomax, Capt. Sarah Edwards, Senior Airman Rachel Bissonnette, Capt. Leslie Weisz, Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, and Capt. Jordan Barden. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson

71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters prepare to load a container delivery system on to the ramp of an HC-130J Combat King II before conducting the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters prepare to load a container delivery system on to the ramp of an HC-130J Combat King II before conducting the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, visually confirms the target for a loadmaster directed rescue drop Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. This was the first flight for the 71st RQS and the HC-130J Combat King II airframe to be operated by an all-female aircrew. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for theater commanders for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, visually confirms the target for a loadmaster directed rescue drop Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. This was the first flight for the 71st RQS and the HC-130J Combat King II airframe to be operated by an all-female aircrew. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for theater commanders for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, looks out the back of an HC-130J Combat King II as it flies over south Georgia Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. This was the first flight for the 71st RQS and the HC-130J Combat King II airframe to be operated by an all female aircrew. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for theater commanders for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, looks out the back of an HC-130J Combat King II as it flies over south Georgia Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. This was the first flight for the 71st RQS and the HC-130J Combat King II airframe to be operated by an all female aircrew. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for theater commanders for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Senior Airman Rachel Bissonnette, left, and Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, right, both 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters, move a container delivery system on to the ramp of a HC-130J Combat King II before the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Senior Airman Rachel Bissonnette, left, and Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, right, both 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters, move a container delivery system on to the ramp of a HC-130J Combat King II before the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Capt. Sarah Edwards, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilot, prepares for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II before the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

Capt. Sarah Edwards, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilot, prepares for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II before the airframe’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew Sept. 6, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 71st RQS provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces for contingency and crisis response operations worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

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.