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By Martha Lockwood, Defense Media ActivityFrom www.defense.gov

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(U.S. Air Force graphic/Sylvia Saab)

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) – The Air Force’s accepting of women into the force dates aback to connected afore the aboriginal “Women’s History Week” anniversary in 1978.

In 1942, the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) took the exceptional footfall of basal and employing two women’s aerodynamics units. That aforementioned year, a assemblage of flight nurses who had not yet absolutely accomplished their training, were beatific into North Africa on Christmas Day afterward the Allied aggression in November of that year.

And the history of women–civilian and military–was always changed.

WASPS, WAFS and a Willingness to ServeOriginally, the abstraction of application women pilots was aboriginal appropriate in 1930, but was advised “unfeasible,” according to advice maintained at the Civic Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

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Then, in mid-1942, an added charge for Apple War II activity pilots, advantaged the use of accomplished women pilots to fly aircraft on non-combat missions.Two women’s aerodynamics units–The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS–with a basal S) and the Women’s Airforce Account Pilots (WASPs) were formed to affluence this need. Added than 1,000 women alternate in these programs as civilians absorbed to the USAAC, aerial 60 actor afar of non-combat aggressive missions.

These two units were alloyed into a distinct group, the Women Airforce Account Pilots (WASP) affairs in August 1943, and bankrupt arena for U.S. Air Force changeable pilots who would chase in their footsteps decades later.

Of the added than 25,000 women who activated for pilot training beneath the WASP program, 1,830 were accepted, 1,074 were graduated, and 916 (including 16 aloft WAFS) remained back the affairs was disbanded in December 1944. WASP assignments were diverse–as flight training instructors, glider tow pilots, towing targets for air-to-air and anti-aircraft arms practice, engineering analysis flying, ferrying aircraft, and added duties.

Although WASPs had the privileges of officers, they were never formally adopted into the USAAC. In November 1977–33 years afterwards the WASPs affairs was disbanded–President Carter alive a bill acceding Apple War II veterans’ cachet to aloft WASPs.

“Winged Angels.”It was a hardly altered adventure for flight nurses who were associates of the aggressive from the beginning. As it was with so abounding advances and innovations consistent from Apple War II, the USAAC radically afflicted aggressive medical care, and the development of air aborticide and the training of flight nurses were avant-garde to accommodated this need.

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After the aggression of North Africa in November 1942, the charge for flight nurses exceeded the supply, and women who had not yet accomplished their training were alleged into activity and beatific to North Africa on Christmas Day. Finally, in February 1943, the aboriginal chic of Army Nurse Corps flight nurses graduated.

Unlike their stateside-stationed counterparts in the WASPs, flight nurses (nicknamed “Winged Angels”) in the Army Nurse Corps served in combat. They were abnormally accessible to adversary attacks because aircraft acclimated for aborticide could not affectation their non-combat status.

These aforementioned aircraft were additionally acclimated to carriage aggressive supplies. In apprehension and alertness for about any emergency, flight nurses were appropriate to apprentice blast procedures, accept adaptation training, and apperceive the furnishings of aerial distance on a all-inclusive arrangement of pathologies.

Of the about 1.2 actor patients air alone throughout the war, alone 46 died en route. About 500 USAAC nurses (only 17 died in combat) served as associates of 31 medical air aborticide carriage squadrons throughout the world.

When President Harry Truman alive The Civic Security Act of 1947, creating the Department of Defense, the U. S. Air Force became a abstracted aggressive service. At the time, a cardinal of Women’s Army Corps (WACs) associates connected confined in the Army but performed Air Force duties.

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The afterward year, some WACs chose to alteration to the Women’s Air Force (WAFs–with a lower case s) back it assuredly became accessible to do so.

Originally, the WAFs were bound to 4,000 enlisted women and 300 changeable officers, all of whom were encouraged to ample a array of arena assignment roles–mostly accounting and medical–but were not to be accomplished as pilots, alike admitting the USAAC had accelerating the aboriginal chic of changeable pilots in April 1943, during wartime.

In 1976, back women were accustomed into the Air Force on an according base with men, the WAF affairs ended, but not afore abounding milestones were accomplished and apparent forth the way in alertness for today’s Air Force woman.

The WAFs in EvolutionThe aboriginal WAF recruit was Sgt. Esther Blake who enlisted on July 8, 1948, in the aboriginal minute of the aboriginal day that approved Air Force assignment was accustomed for women. She had been a WAC, and she transferred in from Fort McPherson, Ga.

The aboriginal recruits appear to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 1948. Back basal training was desegregated in the Air Force the afterward year, abounding African-American women recruits joined, alike admitting the affiliation of abode and blend had not yet been achieved.

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At first, WAFs wore men’s uniforms with neckties. It was “a look” that didn’t aftermost long, and winter uniforms for WAFs were modeled afterwards flight attendants’ uniforms, application the aforementioned actual as the men’s winter uniforms.

The necktie was alone aboriginal on, and was replaced with tabs on the collar. The summer uniform–a two-piece dress fabricated of cotton-cord seersucker–didn’t book as well. Ill-fitting, it appropriate common ironing. It would be years afore a acceptable women’s compatible would be achieved.

Milestones Forth the WayIn its 10-year lifespan, from 1951 to 1961, the 543rd Air Force Bandage (WAF) was served by 235 women musicians, with about 50 associates at any one time. This band, the WAF Bandage as it was known, forth with the all-male Air Force Band, served as ambassadors of the Air Force simultaneously.

The WAF bandage marched in both of President Eisenhower’s countdown parades, and they played for President Kennedy’s inauguration, amid added concert engagements throughout the nation. The bandage was deactivated in 1961. Some say that it was a victim of its own success.

It was during this aforementioned time period–1956–that a WAF area was alien into the college-level Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, and by 1959 four universities were alive ROTC WAF sections. By 1970, they had accomplished a civic presence.

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Concurrent with the amplification of the ROTC women’s buck program, Congress anesthetized Public Law 90-130 in 1967, appropriation brand restrictions and backbone limitations on women in the military.

And with the end of Selective Account (the “draft”) in 1973, recruiting practices changed. Shortly afterwards–1976–the abstracted cachet of WAF was aished, and women entered pilot training as aggressive cadre for the aboriginal time. (The WASPS and WAFS of Apple War II had appear in to account as civilians with pilots’ licenses.) Our country’s bicentennial year additionally saw women entering the account academies, which had not been opened to them above-mentioned to President Ford’s administration.

By 1993, women were accepting fighter pilot training, and Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms (then Maj. Helms), affiliate of the aboriginal chic of the U. S. Air Force Academy to alum women, was additionally the aboriginal American aggressive woman in amplitude as allotment of the Amplitude Shuttle Endeavor team.

Coming, abounding circle, the final affiliate for the WAFS and WASPS of Apple War II was accomplished in 1977, back President Jimmy Carter awarded them abounding cachet as veterans, complete with benefits. A applicable coda was added in 2010 with the application of the Congressional Gold Medal. Today, there are about 300 of the aboriginal women air force pilots still living.

By the NumbersThe milestones cited aloft are aloof that–the highlights of women in account to their country. Anniversary day, women in the Air Force analyze themselves and account those who accept gone afore them by accomplishing the jobs that amount to us all–performing in professional, administrative, abstruse and accounting positions.

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Women accomplish up 19 percent of all Air Force aggressive cadre and 30.5 percent of all noncombatant personnel. Of the changeable officers, 55 percent of the changeable admiral are band officers, and 45 percent are non-line. Of the 328,423 alive assignment personnel, 62,316 are women, with 712 changeable pilots, 259 navigators and 183 air action managers.

Women’s History MonthToday, Women’s History Month acquaintance for all the armed casework is accomplished by the Aegis According Befalling Management Institute headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.. Amid the accoutrement and initiatives for celebratory this month-long anniversary of the role women accept played throughout history, the Institute is authoritative accessible a chargeless download of this year’s Women’s Civic History Project poster, “Women’s Education–Women’s Empowerment.”

Empowerment of women has adequate the services. Starting with the WASPS and WAFS of Apple War II, through the WAFs of the ’50s and ’60s, through the accepting and advance of women at the account academies, anniversary bearing of women and their acquired faculty of account to their country, has able the approaching for ancestors of women gluttonous absolute opportunity.

(Martha Lockwood is the arch of Air Force Advice Products, Aegis Media Activity)

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