Military Aviation

THE STORY OF THE USAF FEMALE PILOT WHO FOLLOWED IN HER MOTHER’s FOOTSTEPS AND BECAME A C-17 DRIVER

As her mother was a rarity as a female cadet in 1976, today LaRivee’s career field is manned with just over 5 percent women

Capt. Jamie LaRivee, a 21st Airlift Squadron (AS) C-17 Globemaster III pilot at Travis Air Force Base (AFB), saw her mother as a role model, and watched her excel in an Air Force career, making LaRivee certain she would follow in her mother’s boot steps, told Senior Airman Sam Salopek, 349th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs in the article Female pilot follows in mother’s boot steps.

“She was in the first class of women at the Air Force Academy,” said LaRivee. “That was a big piece of her life that shaped her completely, but it was also a big piece of my life too.”

LaRivee, after having graduated high school, mirrored her mother and attended the Air Force Academy where she majored in operations research and minored in German.

As her mother was a rarity as a female cadet in 1976, today LaRivee’s career field is manned with just over 5 percent women.

“Not every little girl grows up dreaming to be a pilot,” LaRivee said. “It’s not a common perception for women to be in flying in general, let alone for women to be in the military.”

While at the academy, she had an opportunity to fly gliders. She recalled how she felt in control of her own exhilarating roller coaster ride. After that, she was committed to make it as an aviator.

“There are still biases out there, and sometimes there are people who make assumptions,” LaRivee pointed out. “They’re not so sure you can be as qualified as a male pilot, but that just makes you want to work even harder to show you’re just as capable.”

“In aviation, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female- you’re a flyer,” explained Barbara Brewer, the 21st AS unit program coordinator. “Your gender doesn’t change that ability.”

“My mother faced a lot more challenges and a lot more barriers,” added LaRivee. “There were not as many women who had gone before her to pave the way to prove that women were just as capable as men if they worked hard at it.”

LaRivee views her gender as a proud part of her identity. However, she is aware of the obstacles that being a female military member presents, and accepts them as an opportunity to excel beyond expectations.

“You can’t pretend that we are built the exact same way as men. But, there are so many ways that we can, if not overcome it, become better,” LaRivee said.

Trials arise throughout a military career that tests a person’s confidence in their own ability. While flying a mission, LaRivee was part of a predominately female crew. She remembers a passenger looked inside the flight deck and was shocked that he had been unable to tell the difference in women flying the aircraft rather than men. This comment did not bring LaRivee to question her capacity as a woman, but rather solidified her confidence in her skill.

“If you face challenges, don’t let them get you down, let them inspire you to do better,” LaRivee said. “There are so many women in aviation who have done amazing things, and there have always been people who doubted them.”

Noteworthy, the message of femininity in the military rang out in a 1996 speech made by LaRivee’s mother.

“One of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the military has and will continue to be balancing strength with sensitivity, confidence with humility,” said retired Lt. Col. Marianne LaRivee, in a speech for the Senior Executives Symposium Spouses Program. “We want to show that we can do our jobs well while also staying true to ourselves as women-daughters, sisters and mothers. That we can do what our country asks of us while also living up to the cultural expectations and responsibilities of our gender.”

Source: as reported on top of the original story, this feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story. 

Photo credit: Senior Airman Sam Salopek and Heide Couch / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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