By Aleta Vinas, ANN Correspondent
"We need more chicks!,"
declared USAF Captain Kim Black from the stage at the Women in
Aviation International Conference. Black is a B1B Bomber pilot.
Being the only female in a squadron with 99 "boys," her statement
is almost a plea. Black is confident she has the best job in the
world, and she'd like more females to share her passion for
Passionate she is, she gets "misty" on stage talking about her
loyalty and patriotism. The WAI audience applauds her for it. "I
serve God, I serve my country, I serve my family, I serve my
people." Black talks about "servanthood," as she calls it, as a
choice not a debt.
Black's love of flight began when she was on a commercial flight
from Denver to El Paso at about age 6. "I looked like one of those
Garfield stuffed animal toys with the suction cups looking out the
window. I was mesmerized," remembers Black. She thought she might
be a flight attendant. The idea of being a pilot didn't become
apparent until college.
There was no doubt Black was going to college. "Honey, I can't
pay for it but you're going," Black's mother told her. The military
was the last thing on her mind when Black's high school counselor
mentioned college ROTC to her. "Military? You're not gonna get me
in the military," swore Black. Her counselor calmed her down. Black
thought of her mother's statement and agreed to give it a try.
In high school Black had taken the Private Pilot ground school
as an elective. She loved it so much her grandparents paid for her
The ROTC recruiter was impressed when he saw Black had her
private ticket. "Are you interested in being a pilot?," the
recruiter asked her. This was in 1992 - 1993 when the service was
just starting to allow women to fly combat. She took the ROTC tests
and did well enough to start pilot training. Black was flying the
B1B in under two years.
Bombers were not Black's original intention. Black was high
enough in her class to be able to choose Air Mobility Command
(tankers, transport and cargo) or Air Combat Command (fighters and
bombers). Black chose Air Combat Command since she originally
wanted to be a fighter pilot.
Halfway through her training she switched from fighters to
bombers, after talking with two instructors who'd flown the B1B.
Black says, "I loved everything that they talked about, the
missions, the mentality and just their way of life." Black also
liked the idea of being protected by the fighters. The four person
B1B crew was more her style as opposed to the solo fighter
Black has been in the Air Force for nine years. She has about
1,500 hours, almost a third of which are combat. She's been married
for almost two years to husband Brett who is also in the Air Force
in a non-flying position. The two weather their separations, as
military couples must.
Black has been deployed four times. Her second deployment was
six months after 9-11. She becomes "misty" again as she speaks of
it on stage. "I got to be a direct part of the justice that was
Over the years her missions have changed, and had her second
guessing why she was there if it wasn't for her original mission.
One 15-hour mission gave her the answer. The B1B was in a holding
pattern when some ground troops asked for a "show of force," Black
related. This means, according to Black "going to a lower altitude,
putting in full hog and making some noise." Black and her crew put
on their show, continued their mission and headed home. Tears well
up again when she recounts that when they returned, she was told
they saved 20 guys lives with their low pass. Her lesson, she says,
"if you find yourself in a support role, be proud to support
because you might be doing a lot better job than what you think
Certainly a minority in what she is doing, Black has "never"
been harassed as a female in the Air Force. She has never felt
dismissed or left out by her peers, although, Black jokingly says,
"sometimes I wish I was left out of certain situations or certain
conversations." Black notes the 99 "boys" in her squadron "feel
free to talk about and do anything around me."
She notes at certain times of the month, "I get grouchy and
complaining and they (the guys) don't know why. Hence Black's
request for "more chicks" so there will be others who
Black can't point to one specific mentor that has helped her
along, but many and one very special one. "Every single Commander
that I've ever had has always been so supportive." She adds, "I owe
it all to God for putting me in these jobs that I've had with these
She acknowledges that her predecessors made her pathway in
aviation easier. "The WASPS have paved the road. I'm walking a
clearer path here and they're the ones who bulldozed it over."
Her advice to future aviators? "Be a decent, respectable human
being with a sense of humor, mind you, because you have to take the
humor in with all the other stuff and you'll succeed."