To quote rapper Craig G, from “The Symphony,” mm mm mm, ain’t that somethin’: Maj. Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell is the first African-American female fighter pilot ever in the United States Air Force. (Thanks to Black Spin for the tip.)
As further noted on BlackMilitaryWorld.com, Kimbell’s a member of the 555th Fighter Squadron, and has been flying since she was 14.
“I am still amazed that in this day and age there is still so much room for firsts especially for females and for African-Americans,” Major Kimbrell said. “It is an important step for progression and although I am not fond of the spotlight I think it is important for people to know that this barrier has been breeched. Especially for the African-American community and for women to know what types of opportunities are available to them.”
Kimbrell notes that getting to this position presented continuous tests.
“There was the physical challenge of not having perfect eyesight, which at one point I was told would disqualify me from flying. There are continued challenges with flight gear, uniforms and equipment that are designed and optimized for men.”
Another challenge Major Kimbrell faced throughout her career and growing up was the struggle of being an African-American woman, who at times was viewed as being different than other people.
“There are still a lot of unresolved racial issues in the U.S. and they spill over into every walk of life and every workspace,” said Major Kimbrell, the only female pilot stationed at Aviano Air Base. “When I go somewhere new, people tend to look at me differently, mostly because of who I am and it is the subtle ways that people treat me differently that make it challenging. The unfortunate fact is that being a black woman is a constant struggle.”
According to the piece, of the more than 14,000 pilots employed by the Air Force, approximately 3,700 are fighter pilots…and only 70 of those are female. (The Air Force first graduated women pilots in 1977, but they were excluded from combat until 1993. Many of these women belong to the CFPA: Chick Fighter Pilot Association, an informal group for hard hittin’ female flight jocks started in 2005.)
The F-16 which Kimbrell flies, above, has a maximum speed of 1,500 mph and a maximum ceiling of over 50,000 feet. It’s engine generates up to 29,000 lbs of thrust, and it can accelerate up to 9Gs.
In August 2006, Kimbrell brought her son into this world. She can definitely take him out.