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Aviators from Naval Air Force Atlantic (AIRLANT) participated in a Girls Rock Wings (GRoW) event at Fulton County Airport and Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, Oct. 21.
Lt. Kelli Wise, weapons systems officer with AIRLANT’s Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103 volunteered for the event to help inspire the next generation of aviators to join the ranks of naval aviation.
“It is exciting to work with these girls,” Wise said, who along with fellow VFA-103 pilot Lt. Tristan Dmitrijev flew an F/A-18F Super Hornet to Atlanta International Airport to provide an opportunity for the attendees to interact with them. “There is no better feeling than inspiring the next generation. The kids are the most fun to work with. It is inspiring to engage with young school-age girls not only to become pilots, but show them that anything is possible, and any job even one deemed a ‘male’ job, it does not matter, male or female: if you are qualified, you can do the job.”
Cmdr. Jeffrey Creighan, the commanding officer of VFA-103, added that the event in Atlanta is just one of the many outreach events the Navy participates in to showcase the talents and diverse backgrounds of our sea going service.
“I could not be more proud of the men and women of VFA-103 in their support in Atlanta and the support given to our local communities around the country,” Creighan said. “These opportunities have been rewarding and the profound impacts made on our youth through these outreach events will continue to shape the future of naval aviation.”
Static displays at the event included VFA-103’s Super Hornet, a P-8A Poseidon aircraft from AIRLANT’s Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron (VP) 30, a T-44C Pegasus aircraft from Training Squadron (VT) 31, and an F-16D Fighting Falcon from the 148 Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard.
Monique Grayson, a civilian commercial pilot is the director of GRoW Atlanta and helped to coordinate this year’s activities. GRoW, launched in 2018, has offered opportunities for women to explore careers in aviation in various cities. They have coordinated past events in Houston, Dallas, and Denver.
“There are so many facets of aviation and multiple ways to pursue a career in aviation,” Grayson said. “It is our goal to diversify the flight line by introducing young ladies about career choices that are obtainable.”
The participants also had an opportunity to speak with the aviators to better understand what inspired them to pursue a career in military aviation, what university or academy they attended and how to apply for scholarships, what pipeline they used to earn their officer commission, and how they navigated the rigors of military flight training to successfully earn their wings and join their fleet squadrons.
Grayson added that the attendees even have an opportunity to dress as pilots to adopt the mindset, “if you can see it, you can be it.”
Cmdr. Jon Megahy, a Reservist assigned to Fixed-Wing Logistics Squadron (VR) 56 coordinated for other military aircraft assets to participate in this community relations event.
“This is a great opportunity for these young girls to see aviators in person along with the hardware they operate,” Megahy said. “We are grateful to Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 Capt. Alex Hampton, for spreading the word about the event. This exposure will push them into careers they may not have considered previously, largely because they were not aware of the entry requirements and progressive milestones needed to pursue them.”
This year also marks 50 years of women flying in the Navy.
AIRLANT is responsible for six nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 54 aircraft squadrons, 1,200 aircraft and 43,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel based on the East Coast of the United States. It provides combat ready, sustainable naval air forces with the right personnel, properly trained and equipped, with a focus on readiness, operational excellence, interoperability, safety, and efficient resourcing.