McLAUGHLIN AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, W. Va -- The 130th Airlift Wing's first all-female aircrew took flight from Yeager Field, January 20.
The aircrew, consisting of five aviators, was tasked with an aeromedical evacuation training mission aboard a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
Lt. Col. Kristen Hoeckel and Maj. Kelly Farris piloted a route from Charleston, West Virginia to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. Chief Master Sgt. Debbie Turrill, Technical Sgt. Emily Knight and Technical Sgt. Autumn Davis served as loadmasters for the flight— the first all-female crew in the unit’s 63-year history.
“Looking at our crew, I have a sense of pride, knowing that early in my career, I was opening doors and opening eyes to the concept that women can flourish in what used to be an all-male career field,” said Turrill who started her career as a loadmaster, now manages the section as the chief and evaluator loadmaster.
The five aviators have already flown more than 2,000 hours and 1,056 sorties in the J model aircraft which the 130th has only operated since August 2021. Combined, they amassed more than 11,000 hours in the H model C-130 aircraft, previously flown at the unit.
Lt Col. Hoeckel, a twenty-two-year veteran of the Air National Guard said of this moment, “While its a historic flight for this unit, and I’m glad to be a part of this crew, I’ll be happy when it’s no longer newsworthy.” She poignantly added, “Its been a long, challenging road for women to be seen as equally capable. I just want to do my job, and be seen as a good pilot… not a ‘good female pilot.’”
The 130th is estimated to be Initial Operating Capable (IOC) by the end of this calendar year which is the next milestone for the units transition to a fully capable C-130J unit.