Amidst the ongoing debate about whether female troops should be allowed to serve in combat positions, these women proved that girls have guts.
1. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was an early pioneer for women in aviation. She became famous for her numerous achievements in flight, and, unfortunately, for her mysterious disappearance in 1937 while attempting a circumnavigation of the earth.
In 1932, she gained notoriety when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This flight also garnered her a Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress — the first for a women and the first for a civilian.
2. 1st Lt. Aleda Lutz
Aleda Lutz served as a flight nurse aboard C-47 Medevac aircraft during WWII. In 196 missions, Lutz evacuated and treated some 3,500 casualties and was awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters for her service.
On Nov. 1, 1944, Lutz flew on her last mission, evacuating wounded soldiers from the fighting in France, when her plane crashed in a storm. Lutz was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “outstanding proficiency and selfless devotion to duty.”
She is also believed to have been the first woman killed in action in WWII.
3. 1st Lt. Roberta S. Ross
Roberta Ross also served as a flight nurse in World War II. Her service took her to Asia where she flew “the hump”, completing over 100 missions. For her efforts, she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
4. Col. Jacqueline Cochran
Jacqueline Cochran was a pioneer for women’s military aviation. Cochran had numerous accomplishments and firsts throughout her illustrious career.
During WWII, she flew aircraft between America and Europe and later directed all Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs).
She was the first woman to break the speed of sound, the first woman to take off and land from an aircraft carrier, and the first woman to exceed Mach 2.
For her exceptional skills and record-breaking flying Cochran was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses during her career.
5. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill
In March 2006, Lori Hill was flying Kiowa helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. She would be the first woman to ever receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor when she provided close air support to American troops engaged with the enemy.
Despite heavy fire, Hill made multiple gun runs against insurgents. On her final pass her helicopter received a hit from an RPG which damaged her instruments.
As she banked away, machine gun fire riddled the bottom of her aircraft and struck her in the foot. She managed to limp the damaged aircraft back to a nearby FOB, saving her aircraft and crew.
6. Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar
Mary Jennings Hegar would become only the second woman to ever receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.
While flying a medevac mission, Hegar’s Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by insurgents and she was wounded in a well-executed trap. According to an interview with NPR, she climbed on the skids of a Kiowa helicopter that landed to extract her and, despite her wounds, provided cover fire with her M4 while the aircraft flew off.
For her efforts, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor and the Purple Heart.
7. Sgt. Julia Bringloe
Julia Bringloe was serving as a flight medic on a medevac crew when American and Afghan forces launched Operation Hammer Down in the Pech River Valley. Almost immediately, the units involved started taking casualties, and Bringloe and the rest of her dustoff crew were flying into fierce enemy fire.
While extracting one soldier of many she would rescue over the course of three days, Bringloe’s leg was broken. While ascending a 150-foot lift on a cable with her patient, she had swung into a tree. She refused to quit, however, and over the next 60 hours rescued fourteen soldiers from the battlefield.
Bringloe was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, as were both pilots of her helicopter. The crew chief received an Air Medal with Valor and their efforts were named the Air/Sea Rescue of the Year by the Army Aviation Association of America.