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NEWS | June 4, 2024

DCARNG All-Female Flight Crew Commemorates 50 years of Women in Modern Aviation

By 2LT Christopher Cumberbatch and Master Sgt. Arthur M. Wright | D.C. National Guard

The sun beams over a lake on a warm summer day, creating a rippling glow, and the excitement in the air is palpable. A light breeze carrying the salty sea and the aroma of food stands sweeps across the pier. A young girl with her family stares intently up at the clouds waiting for what she knows will soon blast across the sky.

And then, the Blue Angels appear, six F/A-18 Hornets streak across the sky in perfect formation. The sound is thunderous, reverberating in her chest and leaving her awestruck. The jets move with incredible precision, performing tight loops, barrel rolls, and synchronized maneuvers leaving long white trails in their wake. The girl imagines herself in the cockpit, soaring high above the earth, and feeling the thrill of flight.

That girl is CW2 Lauren Bloch, UH-60 Black Hawk pilot for the District of Columbia National Guard. For the last 19 years she’s worn many hats, first enlisting into the U.S. Army Reserve in California as a ground medic in February of 2005 and transferring to the D.C. National Guard in April of 2007 where she became qualified as a flight medic. Earlier this year, she completed training at the Western Army Aviation Training Site (WAATS), enduring some of the most complex and technically challenging aviation instruction in the Army, and now serves as a full-time instructor pilot.

“It’s important that more young girls see more women like me who follow their passion and calling to serve,” CW2 Bloch said. “My very first flight in an Army helicopter was on my 30th birthday — I’d like to see more women entering aviation earlier, being pioneers and pursuing roles that are still seen as male-dominated fields.”

Fifty years ago, on June 4, 1974, 2nd Lt. Sally Murphy became the first female U.S. Army helicopter pilot to graduate from flight school and receive her wings, reigniting the framework for women to officially serve in aviation. Women’s roles in aviation have continued to grow over the last five decades, and in 1994 a female fighter pilot flew a combat mission for the first time.

“It’s still very much a competitive career field and there aren’t different standards for men and women,” CW2 Bloch said. “I tip my hat to the women who challenged those who said we can’t fly, we should be somewhere else, and this isn’t the space for us. I’m proud to serve alongside fellow female aviators, highly skilled flight medics, maintainers who turn wrenches on aircraft, our avionics personnel, tech supply NCOs, flight operations personnel, all the admin NCOs…the list goes on. We have some incredible females within our ranks who are serious about branching out and serving where their skill lies.”

In recognition the Army’s first woman to graduate Army flight school and the first female officer to achieve pilot status in June 1974, D.C. National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility at Davison Airfield commemorated with an all-female flight. CW2 Bloch joined CW3 Joy Byrnes co-piloting a UH-60 Black Hawk, and U.S. Army SSG Belita Lynum provided aviation operations duties on the ground.

“This flight is about promoting representation and seeing more women achieving their dreams,” said SSG Lynum.

For CW3 Byrnes, it's a long time coming acknowledging 50 years ago the commemoration wouldn’t have happened.

“One of my goals was inspiring more women to consider aviation,” CW3 Byrnes said. “I love to fly and it’s a very useful asset. There’s a lot aviation does for the military and I want to see more women climbing the ranks and being successful at it.”

This is personal for both CW3 Byrnes and CW2 Bloch. Both came to the D.C. National Guard as enlisted Soldiers, commissioned as warrant officers together, and served as each other’s close friend and mentor over the years.

“In this industry you need a support system,” CW3 Byrnes said. “You’ll get further in numbers, and we’ve been able to persevere because we have each other. Find a mentor and surround yourself with people who are going to tell you what you can do. And not what you can’t do.”

‘It’s not just about flying,” CW2 Bloch added. “It’s about showing females that the sky’s the limit and they can do this too. There are so many opportunities out there, and I’m excited to help them see that.”

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