Wolf Pack celebrates Women’s History Month: fighter pilot edition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Suzie Plotnikov
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Each March we celebrate Women’s History Month. This is the second story in a series of women serving here at the Wolf Pack.

Once upon a time, women weren't allowed to serve on the battlefield.

They aided the war efforts in clerical roles or even as seamstresses or laundresses.

“To be honest, I often forget that it was that way,” said Capt. “Buzzer” Randolph, 80th Fighter Squadron C Flight commander. “I think it shows just how far we’ve come since those days – that women can truly be a part of a fighter squadron without feeling like an outsider.”

Randolph knew at a young age she was going to go to the Air Force Academy, she just didn’t think she would go there to become a pilot.

“Once I got there, it sort of just became a theme to ‘see if I could do it,’” Randolph said. “From pilot training, all the way to being an F-16 instructor pilot, that’s sort of just been my mantra.”

Randolph assumes multiple roles inside the squadron. She spends a lot of time behind a computer or on the phone, working with their maintenance team and supervisor-of-flying, or SOF, to ensure safe and effective flying operations. But her favorite parts of being an instructor pilot are the simulations and flights that can last between 45 minutes to more than 2 hours.

“What motivates me is when I see people struggling or they’re just having a hard time getting through a barrier; and then I eventually teach them something or give them a technique that breaks a barrier in their brain,” Randolph said.

Although Randolph said she sometimes experiences the social challenge of being either the only female pilot or one of the few female pilots in a squadron, she enjoys the comradery she has with her male counterparts and often considers them brothers.

“I’m a fighter pilot,” she said. “It really doesn’t matter whether I’m a male or female as long as I’m a competent aviator and instructor. I’d say there’s little in this community that matters more than credibility. Be honest and authentic and you will improve the quality of your team tenfold.”

First Lt. “Grizzly” Akers, 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, didn’t think she was going to become a pilot when she was studying behavioral science at the AFA, until she had the opportunity to participate in their powered flight program.

“I just fell in love with flying,” Akers said. “So then I was like, ‘I think I’m going to go for the pilot slot,’ and from then on, I’ve just always loved it and it’s been great.”

While the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed in 1948, it was not until 1993 that the Air Force had its first female fighter pilot. Women continue to have a significant impact on the Air Force – both as leaders and experts in their fields.

“I think it’s awesome, and I think there’s always progress to be made,” Akers said. “I’m glad that we’re continuing to move forward, innovating and thinking of more ways we can open up different career fields to different people and just making our force better as a whole. Even something so small as the change in hair regulations is awesome and it’s steps in the right direction in allowing women to have their voices heard more.”

Randolph and Akers never thought they’d become fighter pilots when they were younger, but they wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else.

“I feel like a lot of people care a lot about what people think, but if you have something you want to do and that’s what you’re passionate about, then I think that should drive you to accomplish your dream,” Akers said. “I don’t ever let being a woman stop me from pursuing whatever goals I have.”