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A flying look into women's history

AL ASAD, Iraq (March 13, 2008) -- From Amelia Earhart’s solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1932 to Marine Capt. Sarah Deal’s achievement as the first-ever female Marine Corps pilot in 1995, the spectrum of women’s aviation history continues to expand.


March 13, 2008; Submitted on: 03/13/2008 06:36:29 AM ; Story ID#: 200831363629
By Lance Cpl. Jessica N. Aranda, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Women’s history month celebrates these and other amazing accomplishments with the theme, “Women’s Art: Women’s Vision”.

One Marine’s visions, most commonly viewed through the windshield of a tiltrotor aircraft, contribute to the growing list of women’s firsts.

Captain Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, is recognized as the very first female MV-22 Osprey pilot.

“To be the first female anything is kind of shocking,” explained Okoreeh-Baah, who views all of her successes as an opportunity to give something back to others.

Okoreeh-Baah began piloting toward new opportunities for the generations behind her long before her first MV-22 flight.

The Nashville, Tenn., native graduated from the Naval Academy in 2000, as one of the first females with a Marine Corps aviation contract.

After more than five years flying the CH-46E Sea Knight, including a yearlong combat deployment, Okoreeh-Baah’s unit, then Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, began replacing the CH-46Es with the MV-22s, and she hopped onboard the transition process.

The 28-year-old completed the transition and made her historic flight March 13, 2006, two years ago today.

“She’s an integral part of the squadron, just like any other pilot,” said Maj. Eric Garcia, a pilot with VMM-263. “Being recognized historically as the first female is a big accomplishment.”

Okoreeh-Baah thinks women’s history month is another chance for the future of society to see examples of who they can view as role models.

“It’s good to have individuals who set the bar and encourage us to become better Marines,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeanette Santoro, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) career retention specialist and president of the Women Marines Association here. “It allows us to know what goals we can accomplish and gives us something to strive for. It also shows the billets female Marines are now filling.”

Everything we do affects women’s history, the fact that we’re out here in Iraq easily visible to the international press and other Marines sets an example, explained Okoreeh-Baah.

“People will never know the possibilities if no one ever aspires to do them,” she added.