Lt Col Cheryl Buehn is the only female T-38 instructor pilot at the 71st Fighter Training Squadron (FTS). The unit’s role is to provide adversarial air training for the F-22s at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
“I hear at times in my uniform out and about in daily life, ‘do they let women fly?’”said Lt. Col. Cheryl Buehn, the only female instructor pilot in the 71st FTS. “I don’t think they realize they’re asking a female fighter pilot. So I take a breath and I say, ‘Absolutely. They let women fly fighters, tankers, RPAs, everything. Both men and women fly a lot of different platforms, and everyone is important to the fight right now.’”
As explained by Emerald Ralston, 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs, in the article Fighter pilot takes inspiration to new heights, Buehn has flown a number of aircraft in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, T-38C Talon and the E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node. She currently flies the T-38A Talon in an adversary air role to help F-22 Raptor pilots train for combat. She said she loves the opportunity to challenge outdated stereotypes and inspire younger generations, including her own children.
“My kids used to think that all parents were pilots since my husband is a pilot too,” she said. “They’d meet [other parents] and say ‘what airplane do you fly?’ It was the coolest thing that my kids believed that anyone could be a pilot.”
Buehn’s interest in flight came in part from her love of a challenge and conquering things other people said were too difficult.
“My first true interest and desire in becoming a pilot began while I was at the United States Air Force Academy,” she said.
However Buehn credits those who came before her who made it possible for her to be an Air Force fighter pilot.
The accomplishments of her role models, such as Amelia Earhart, the first female pilot to fly alone across the Atlantic; Bessie Coleman, the first African-American and Native-American woman to hold a pilot’s license; and the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who served an integral role flying military aircraft during World War II, inspired Buehn to never let any societal expectations hold her back.
Women’s History Month is just one opportunity to highlight the incredible women serving in many capacities, but being an inspiration to future fighter pilots is something Buehn said she hopes she does all year.
“There’s a natural confidence or comfort in seeing someone that looks like you doing something that you want to do,” said Buehn. “You’re able to envision that your dream can become your reality. I do the same job as my colleagues, but maybe I will inspire the next young aviator who didn’t realize it was even a possibility, and that is important.”
Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Natasha Stannard and Airman 1st Class Steven Sechler
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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