OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- Only 36 years ago, the first female Air Force pilots took to the sky, and ever since, barriers have continued to shatter in avionics.
Today, there are 62,112 women actively serving in the Air Force; making up less than 20 percent of the force, according to Air Force Personnel Center officials. Of the women serving, only 723 are pilots -- but at Osan Air Base here there is only one.
First Lt. Clancy Morrical, assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron, currently stands as Osan AB's only female pilot.
Morrical was raised in an aviation household as her father was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot for 20 years and then airline pilot, yet she didn't grow up aspiring to be a pilot herself.
"My father shared a lot of information about flying with me," she said. "He took me on a Cessna ride one time, and I flew a glider once when I was younger, but my parents always said, 'Do whatever it is you feel you were meant to do,' and I didn't see myself as a pilot. I didn't grow up as a kid saying, 'I want to be a pilot,' and I didn't go to a lot of air shows or do a lot of the things you often hear pilots say they did."
Morrical was studying education at Baylor University, Texas, as she mastered the basics on how to be an Air Force officer through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Although she was sure she wanted to be an officer, she was still unsure what her exact career path would be.
Advice and mentorship sparked her idea to apply for a pilot slot, said Morrical, and in her junior year she was thrilled to find out she had been selected. Once she set her mind on it, she excelled in her training by earning the Military Training Award for the first portion of the two-year path to becoming an aviator. At this point, it was still undecided as to what kind of pilot she would become.
Morrical went into pilot training without a bias on flying either fighter or heavy aircraft, saying she "was testing the waters," but recalled formation training in a T-6 Texan II, as the defining moment when she decided her preference.
"While doing different things in training our instructors would say, 'If you enjoy this,' referring to formation training, 'You may enjoy flying a fighter.' That is when I really started loving the idea," the F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot said with a smile.
Throughout her training, Morrical studied with less than 10 other female students, yet she attributes some of her success to her influential squadron leaders at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
"I was crazy lucky to be in a squadron with two women in leadership," she said enthusiastically. "It was really neat to watch them lead and to have the opportunity to learn about being a female pilot, such as the differences and logistics of flying as a woman. They are amazing pilots."
Morrical never skipped a beat and continued to thrive throughout the remainder of her training and finished the F-16 initial training course as a distinguished graduate. She scored an amazing average of 99.7 percent on the 10 tests covering all aspects of F-16 operations. She also earned the "Top Pencil" award for being rated number one of her class of 16.
Her laid-back attitude and passion for her job solidifies her place in the "Flying Fiends."
"I'm just a fighter pilot, the fact that I'm a woman doesn't matter," she said. "As long as you're capable, there is nothing holding you back from being successful in this career field -- male or female. It's really about performance; gender has nothing to do with it."
As far as her comrades' view of her in a fighter squadron dripping with tradition, her gender has proved unimportant.
"We don't see her as a female pilot, we see her as Clancy, the sharp and ambitious pilot she is," said Lt. Col. Jason Cockrum, the commander of the 36th FS. "She has such a positive attitude, she's eager to learn and is looking to make herself the best pilot in the squadron."
Morrical is still very new, having just arrived in February and with this being her first active-duty assignment. Right now, she is focusing on being the best F-16 wingman possible. She is now a little more than half way through her mission qualification training and, as her commander explains, "Is kicking tail at it."
But she has set big goals for her career.
To incorporate her degree in education into her passion for flying, Morrical aspires to be an instructor pilot in the future. And she hopes to one day be a fighter squadron commander herself.
|Air Force Women in the Military News|