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Female aviators key element to the CAA mission

Photo of Airman looking at a plane flying

A 711th Special Operations Squadron Combat Aviation Advisor watches a C-145 Combat Coyote as it comes in for landing on an unimproved runway March 15, 2021 near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. CAAs advise, assist and instruct service members from partner nations on how to best perform their specialized mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Female aviators play an important role in the 711th Special Operations Squadron’s Combat Aviation Advisor mission at home and around the globe. Combat Aviation Advisors advise, assist and instruct service members from our partner nations on how to best perform this specialized mission. 

One of the female aviators working hard to get the mission done in the 919th Special Operations Wing is Maj. Brianna Thompson. She was a traditional navigator before joining the 919th Special Operations Wing and is one of several female CAAs in the unit.

“We always need more people with diverse perspectives in aviation,” said Thompson. “You don’t have to be exactly like everyone on the aircrew to get along, be effective as a team, and enjoy the [heck] out of it.”

Another female aviator and CAA in the 711th SOS is Lt. Col. Stacie Carroll who was a navigator on the AC-130U Spooky before becoming a CAA.

“I take a lot of pride in being a special operations aviator,” said Carroll. “I love that I was able to continue as an Air Force Special Operations Command aviator as a Reservist.”

CAAs receive special training to operate in diverse environments in austere locations around the world, creating space for a diversity of perspectives. 

“The women I’ve ran into in this job seem to have it all,” said Thompson. “The role we play is probably a lot more prominent than our numbers would suggest.”

While just under 7 percent of pilots are female, the Air Force has taken moves to grow the number of female aviators and removed the height requirements to fly in 2020. 

Thompson noted that sometimes it can be difficult when she’s the only female aviator on an aircrew. The challenges are far greater when performing the CAA mission as a lone female in a partner nation.  

With the physical demands, mental strength and skill required to fly, Airmen have to meet certain standards whether male or female.

“I love when you start to feel comfortable and confident with the mission set,” said Thompson. “Typically ground-users will hear men on the radio, so when I know I’m doing my job really well and they’re hearing me, there’s nothing more powerful than that.”

To see more coverage of our Citizen Air Commandos getting the mission done, be sure to check out the 919th SOW on Facebook and Instagram.