Supergirls – instructors, students sharing food, experiences, common concerns

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  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Chili, chips and the chance to learn what challenges and opportunities lay ahead for women in the male-dominated world of military flying.

That’s what Maj. Christina Hopper wants the “Vance Supergirls” to give female students pilots.

The group meets once a month. Between 12 and 24 female instructor pilots and student pilots share food, experiences and the occasion TED talk.

Instructor pilots share experiences ranging from writing performance reports, to what the deployment schedules are like in various aircraft to how different assignment selections may affect family choices like when to have children.

They sometimes use TED talks that tie into the topic of the meeting and use them to guide meaningful discussion. TED talks are 18-minute videos about technology, entertainment or design.

And all things relate to mentorship – letting the next generation of female pilots benefit from those who came before them.

“Supergirls is primarily for mentorship,” said Hopper, a T-38 instructor pilot and combat veteran in the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

“For those of us who have been to different major weapons system and are now back at a training base to teach, this is an opportunity to share,” she said.

And share they do.

From the first meeting, Hopper has encouraged the women to submit questions they want to discuss. An instructor pilot takes one of the questions and shares her experiences on the subject. Then the floor is open for discussion and follow-up questions.

“We created a non-judgmental environment where student pilots can ask questions and air concerns without fear of reprisal,” Hopper said.

The concept of Supergirls seems to be working, judging by those who attended the January meeting.

“It sounds interesting,” said 2nd Lt. Jessica Wallander, who just started pilot training. “I want to meet new friends and build relationships with other female pilots on base.”

Second Lt. Jenny Brown, a T-1 student with Class 16-08, likes the idea of meeting with a group of women with the same issues and thoughts on things.

Capt. Alicia Cramer, a T-1 instructor pilot with the 5th Flying Training Squadron, was attending her first Supergirls meeting.

“I like what the group stands for,” she said. “It is our job as older officers to mentor the younger officers. If we tell them about our experiences and mistakes, maybe they can learn from them.”

Vance currently has 12 female instructor pilots and 44 female student pilots.

Cramer said it is good for the female students to feel support from the women around them, especially in a career field that is male dominated.

And that is what Hopper wanted Supergirls to be.

"I named our group Supergirls because as female aviators, we face many unique challenges as we balance the high demands of competing in our careers with effectively managing our home lives,” she said.

“It's not an easy balance to achieve, but the female pilots I have met make it look easy," said Hopper.

Sounds like a good definition of a “super girl.”

Supergirls is open to all female IPs and students at Vance Air Force Base. Watch the base-wide email and the marquees at the gates for information on the next meeting.