HomeNewsArticle Display

Article Display

Nevada Air Guard female aviators fly into history

The Nevada Air National Guard's first all-female flight crew returns, upon the completion of their mission on June 21, to the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. From left to right were loadmaster Master Sgt. Kathleen Backlund, flight engineer Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Cronin, co-pilot Capt. Brooke Magee, navigator 1st. Lt. Merridy Stephenson, loadmaster Staff Sgt. Jana Morales and pilot Maj. Hillary Moynihan.

The Nevada Air National Guard's first all-female flight crew returns, upon the completion of their mission on June 21, to the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. From left to right were loadmaster Master Sgt. Kathleen Backlund, flight engineer Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Cronin, co-pilot Capt. Brooke Magee, navigator 1st. Lt. Merridy Stephenson, loadmaster Staff Sgt. Jana Morales and pilot Maj. Hillary Moynihan.

RENO -- Six Airmen from the Nevada Air National Guard made history on June 21 when they teamed to become the first all-female air crew to fly a tactical training mission.

The crew, all from the 192nd Operations Squadron of the 152nd Airlift Wing, included pilot Maj. Hillary Moynihan, co-pilot Capt. Brooke Magee, navigator 1st. Lt. Merridy Stephenson, loadmaster Master Sgt. Kathleen Backlund, flight engineer Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Cronin and loadmaster Staff Sgt. Jana Morales.

The crew completed an airdrop training mission that replicated a real-world sortie that included transporting and delivering simulated pallets.

It was entirely by chance that the assigned crew was all female. No one noted the history-making aspect of the mission until an Airman mentioned the uniqueness of the all-female crew.

Col. Kyle Reid, the 192nd Operations Group commander, downplayed the fact the crew was comprised entirely of female Airmen.

"I expect all my officers and enlisted Airmen to complete the mission every day and whether they are male or female actually makes no difference to me," Reid said. "They went out and completed a mission just like I expect. It just happened to be an all female crew."

Backlund graduated from the Air Force's loadmaster school in 1999 and has been in the unit ever since. She said she hoped the crew could serve as a role model for other females.

"It shows young women that, no matter what, you can do cool things," Backlund said.

Cronin spent four years on active duty as a munitions specialist, enlisted in the Nevada Air Guard as a crew chief in 2008, and became a flight engineer in 2013.

Cronin echoed Backlund's sentiment.

"I think being a role model as a female flyer is a big deal," Cronin said. "It's probably the best part of being involved in all of this."

The camaraderie and personal history the crewmembers share goes back several years. Moynihan, who has been flying since 2001, has been friends with Backlund for 17 years.

Magee, a former enlisted crew chief, has been with the 192nd for 16 years and has been a co-pilot since 2007. Stephenson is also a prior enlisted Airman and just returned to the 192nd after recently graduating from C-130 navigator school.

Moynihan summed up her thoughts on the flight.

"We are all friends and it just happened to work out that way," she said. "I think we're all very proud to have been a part of this historical moment."