SAN DIEGO. Beginning September 28th, the performers at the 2018 MCAS Miramar Air Show started their high octane engines. Over an exciting three days, spectacular aviation aerobatics headlined the largest military air show in the nation. The theme of this year’s show celebrated 100 years of women Marines, spotlighting their accomplishments from World War I to the Global War on Terror.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) open up to San Diego and the world to offer the magic of flight.
The dynamic, world famous Navy Blue Angels and the Patriot Jet Team presented precision flight at its finest, drawing red, white, and blue smoke trails in azure skies. Solo aerobatic Biplanes tumbled around with daring abandon. The U.S. Army Golden Knights, gold medalists out to “conquer the skies,” executed a colorful flag drop. Jumping at over 12,000 feet, U.S. Navy Leap Frogs reached 120 mph as they plummeted toward earth during free fall to join and fly their canopies in dramatic formations.
Adding to the thrills, the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demonstrated a fiery ground combat assault. AH-1Z Cobra gunships paved the way for MV-22 Ospreys loaded with troops to insert. Marine Corps fighter jets warned, rat-a-tatting the ground. Armed Marines moved to positions.
Miramar Air Show: It’s more than just an air show.
According to spokesperson Capt. Matthew Gregory, for Marines of 3rd Miramar Air Show (MAW), all the work and a year of planning is “absolutely worth it.” An attendance of more than 512,000 in 2017 attests to that.
“It is three days out of 365 where we get to have everyone aboard and have some real fun alongside our neighbors. Our Marines and Sailors look forward to it each year,” says Gregory. “We want everyone to understand who we are and what we do daily in our nation’s behalf.”
The pilots and performers are expertly-skilled ambassadors, piquing the public’s interest in aviation. Sean Tucker, one of the best aerobatic pilots in the world, defines fun as “keeping the edge.” Tucker has logged over 25,000 hours of flying time, piloting his one-of-a-kind Oracle Biplanebefore for more than 105 million fans.
“I like to think that I bring the fans’ dreams of flying into the plane with me, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than in the cockpit,” says Tucker.
Over the last 100 years, women Marines made the choice of where they wanted be, in times more difficult than we know. Like Miramar Air Show pilots, they pushed the edge and took risks. “It’s extremely important to reflect on their accomplishments and the barriers they smashed along the way,” says Gregory.
Marines of 3rd MAW take it full throttle while honoring female peers.
During the show, the supersonic stealth F-35B strike fighter rocketed by, rattling the atmosphere. This newly acquired “fifth gen” asset can engage ground targets at long ranges without detection. Always faithful, like the Marines, AV-8B Harrier attack jet hovered in front of the captive grandstand with a piercing roar of power. Vertical take-off and landing can get the Harrier and its weapons payload into areas other jets cannot access.
The F/A-18 Hornet is the tactical fighter of choice for The Blue Angels. Light, maneuverable and fast, the tight team of blue and gold F/A-18’s performs formation loops, rolls, and transitions. Solos showcase high-speed passes, slow passes, fast rolls, slow rolls, and very tight turns.
Twin solos execute high-speed passes that look to be on a collision course, as well as mirror formations which include inverted flying.
The Blue Angels’ highest speed in the Miramar Air Show is 700mph. Yet, the F/A-18 is capable of reaching speeds in excess of Mach 1.7 (1,200 mph) and can carry up to 17,000 pounds of armament.
Air support like this is vital for our ground troops in combat situations.
Aviators rewrote the laws of flying. Women Marines have rewritten gender barriers for 100 years.
100 years ago in 1918, over 300 women lined up to join the Marines in World War I. Over those 100 years, women have contributed to U.S. victory in multiple wars and conflicts. Opha May Johnson stood at the front of that line to become the first Marine recruit. These women initially served as typists and stenographers to relieve men to fight.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, more than 18,000 women signed with the Marine Corps to become radio operators, cooks, stenographers, exchange managers and more in over 200 jobs. Capt. Anne A. Lentz, a former clothing designer, was the first of 200 women to become a commissioned officer. When the war ended, the men returned and women were processed out, leaving about 1,000 remaining to serve.
In 1948, Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. As a result, women were permitted to become permanent personnel in the U.S. military.
The Persian Gulf War and Vietnam War set other milestones for women. Master Sgt. Barbara Dulinsky volunteered for Vietnam, the first female Marine to serve in a combat zone. Her example inspired other women to serve from 1967-1973 in the dangerous and still controversial conflict.
From 1990 – 1991 more than 40,000 women service members deployed to a combat zone in the Gulf War. In 1991, a Congressional act allowed women to fly in combat operations. Four years later in 1995, enter Lt. Col. Sarah Deal. Deal was selected for naval aviation training, firing up her legacy as the first female pilot in the Marine Corps.
Women accelerate into roles previously held by men only.
Notably, Congress got some important things done for patriot women in 1948 and 1991. That “go fly” legislation for women was an important opportunity for Deal and others. She graduated from Kent State University in aviation and already had flight ratings when the slot for women opened up.
“It was difficult in the fact it was a paradigm shift. Only men flew and now women had applied. It was funny, because in the Navy, women had been flying for a long time,” says Deal.
As pilot of the CH-53E Super Sea Stallion, she proved her wings during her first deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. It was an “exhausting” time for her, unlike her second deployment.
“This time I got to engage with the local people. I worked next to an Afghan Army captain…with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Kabul…I was in a NATO billet and doing things that maybe two other people in the world say they ever did. It was very cool the second time around… I wanted to fly and I got what I wanted,” says Deal on being the first USMC female pilot.
Women Marines push forward towards peace.
Capt. Katie (Higgins) Cook is a U.S. Marine Corps officer and the first female U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilot in their 70-year history. In a 2018 Military News report, she discussed her aims and motivation.
“Cook shared the importance of having something “to fight for” as a way to keep herself and her Marines motivated throughout their day-to-day tasks. For Cook, that motivation is service to her country, an ideal that was passed down through her father.”
“Something to fight for” is the foundation of our forward push towards peace.
The edgy derring-do of the MCAS Miramar Air Show is half a world away from our still-deployed Marines in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, or Syria. No patriotic bands play there, and no lively air show announcers pump up the excitement. A Marine can hear his or her thoughts at night. For them, derring-do is simply a daily step into the unknown.
Integration of women in combat reflective of the times.
The Marine Corps makes great strides to open doors to dreams once thought impossible. Military.com recently reported on 1st. Lt. Marina Hierl, the first woman to make it through the exacting Infantry Officer Course.
She “is the only female Marine to lead an infantry platoon in her service’s history…”
“I wanted to be part of a group of people that would be willing to die for each other,” Hierl said.
Col. Marianne Waldrop (Ret.) USMC was a keynote speaker at the MCAS Miramar Air Show honoring 100 years of women in the Marine Corps.
She served from 1987-2011 as a Signals Intelligence Officer, providing tactical and strategic intelligence to America’s warfighters.
Waldrop is a veteran of Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.
In addition, she participated in Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa operations, and served twice in Iraq.
“It took me until I retired to know anything about history of women in the Marine Corps. Honestly, we just try to assimilate; we just want to be a part of our institution. We’re Marines… It’s important for us to take a pause on the 100th anniversary…to understand how the laws changed, the culture changed and how we’ve contributed over the years to the survival of this country,” says Waldrop.
“Battles Are Won Within”.
Slogan from Marine Corps ad campaign, from AP 2018.
We see how different women fight their battles, some with loud public protests and in angry mobs who hurt others unlike them. Others fight quietly to conquer the self, become their own masters and accept sacrifice. They fight not for titles but for a place to belong where they can excel.
“Battles Won” [ad campaign] is designed to drive home the message that mental, moral, and emotional strength are as important as physical toughness,” reported the AP about the Marine Corps’ newest recruitment efforts to reach young Americans.
Posters of accomplished women Marines were displayed throughout the MCAS Miramar Air Show. In their eyes one could see self-mastery. For all who become the powerful fighting warrior called a U.S. Marine, and for the Fallen and the Wounded – to them the following is written and dedicated by the author of this story.
Silenced by the years,
here lies the protectress.
She fought, she served,
the blood of war stained her dress.
Through deserts, mountains, on seas,
in the air she flew as a huntress,
for a given cause.
Sharp was her blade of battle,
as were her senses.
Sealed was her heart to guard,
with brothers she stepped
to freedom’s drum.
She belonged not to war,
not to death and carnage.
The patriot lived worthy,
her watch to complete.
Gone is the vanquished,
the protectress leaves
what she stood for behind.
Her battles won.
May she know she flew with eagles,
is watched over as she rests,
by the eyes of He who made her
to wear the warrior dress.
The Shockwave jet truck thundered down the 3rd MAW airstrip, ejecting flames and mega-clouds of billowing smoke, as if in the midst of a fiery dream. The smoke conjures the vision of a heroic individual clad in uniform, flak jacket, helmet, and boots veiled in fluffy white. What are the thoughts, feelings of the warrior returning? The smoke clears, the fires are out. And she emerges at last, not a vision, but a legacy.
Featured Image: SAN DIEGO, Sept. 29, 2018. Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demonstrates an explosive display of Marine Corps power. F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers secure ground troops insertion at the MCAS Miramar Air Show. Photo by Dave McKinney.