Joint Base Charleston is Breaking Barriers in Female Aviation
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (FOX 24 NEWS NOW) — Aviation is a field long dominated by men, but women are making their way to the front, performing extraordinary feats.
From the first female thunderbird to an all-female C-17 crew, the U.S. Air Force is breaking gender barriers in our armed forces, and Joint Base Charleston is no exception, hosting its own group of female aviators.
Major Kari Fleming is a member of Joint Base’s 14th Airlift Squadron who decided to become a pilot in the military at a very young age. “I decided that I wanted to fly and married that with my desire to serve as well,” she said. “Of course the Air Force was the place for me.”
She decided to enter the Air Force academy in 1999 and graduated in 2003. “I’ve been in love with flying ever since.”
Being amongst predominantly men in her field, Fleming says she still isn’t quite used to it, but on the other hand she is. “That’s the new normal, that is the normal that I have been exposed to my entire adult life,” she said. “I do hope that we can encourage females to stay in the air force and to join the air force. The aviation community is very welcoming to women and the policy changes have really shaped the way we make this a full time career and enjoy the joy a family brings as well.”
Fleming says while the extensive amount of training was the a very challenging part of entering this field, she admits sitting down with her husband and deciding how they were going to continue her aspiration while also continuing to grow their family was difficult. “It wasn’t until I had these amazing commanders above me that were able to demonstrate to me that I could also continue and have a successful family while maintaining a career as well.”
“So many careers are demanding and have an impact on the family,” she said. “Whether it is time away or even if you are around your kids, sometimes you have to be pulled away for a call. I would say aviation is no different, especially in the air force. It is certain that the children of the armed services deal with sacrifices, but I feel my daughter and son are so incredibly proud to have a mother that serves. They love coming out to see the aircraft and love being part of their community. I think they are more positively impacted by me deciding to continue with my dream to fly and serve in the air force than they would be by me being with them.
She says it’s a personal choice, though, and each family has to take it separately.
“Serving in the air force allows not only the joy of flying, but the mission behind it brings pride, from extending our arms to those in need to bringing the most elite special ops forces to the point of impact, it is actually really a joy.”