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First-ever Air Force Women’s Fly-In goes virtual May 11

graphic depicting guest speakers for women's fly in

Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson will be one of the presenters for the first-ever Air Force Virtual Women’s Fly-In, which will be held live on the Columbus AFB Facebook page from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. central time May 11, 2020. With a nod to female aviation pioneers as the backdrop, the event, which is open to all Airmen regardless of gender or career field, helps Airmen create networks to learn more about experiences, leadership and life. (U.S. Air Force graphic / 14th FTW)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson will be one of the presenters for the first-ever Air Force Virtual Women’s Fly-In, which will be held live on the Columbus AFB Facebook page from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. central time May 11, 2020.

With a nod to female aviation pioneers as the backdrop, the event, which is open to all Airmen regardless of gender or career field, helps Airmen create networks to learn more about experiences, leadership and life.

“The vision of the original event was to connect aviatrices and build a supportive network to grow our diverse and inclusive force, as well as connect our operators with their long blue line and origin in the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II,” said Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander and lead organizer of the event. “Today, with the realities of coronavirus, a physical fly-in isn’t possible, but a virtual venue to connect provides an even greater opportunity and out reach across the Air Force,”

With rated diversity being a top priority for Air Force senior leaders, creating a place to discuss, connect and cultivate relationships, as well as to share struggles, successes, and resources is critical to building the force.

“(U.S. Air Force chief of staff) Gen. Goldfein discusses a diverse workforce as a warfighting imperative, and said our ability as an Air Force to find creative solutions starts with the diversity of our rated force of future leaders,” Weeks said. “I believe we need to focus efforts on understanding why our female rated force is leaving and begin to take action to retain them.”

As mentioned, this year’s event will also honor the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), who as federal civil service employees played a pivotal role during World War II. Despite various members of the armed forces being involved in the creation of the program, the WASP and its members had no military standing. The WASP arrangement with the U.S. Army Air Forces ended on December 20, 1944.

“The WASP was a civilian women pilots' organization who became trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft, and trained other pilots,” Weeks said. “These women flew over 60 million miles, transported every airframe in the military arsenal, towed targets for training, and transported essential cargo.  In 1977, the WASP were granted veteran status and in 2009, with the lead of Air Force aviatrices like Col. Nicole Malachowski, they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  These women, now in their 90's, continue to serve as an inspiration to all of us and we’re proud to honor their legacy.”

Keynote speakers during the virtual presentation include:

Gen. (retired) Lori Robinson

As a rated senior air battle manager, Robinson was the first female officer in the history of the United States Armed Forces to command a major unified combatant command, serving as the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) after a stint leading Pacific Air Forces.  She retired in 2018 after 37 years of service.

Simon Sinek

With five books to his credit inspired by the leaders who make an impact in the world, including “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” to explore his idea of the Golden Circle and “Leaders Eat Last,” Sinek is a British-born American author and motivational speaker who has done work with the RAND Corporation.

Col. Kim Campbell

A 1997 Air Force Academy graduate, Campbell was decorated for piloting her A-10 Thunderbolt II back to base in southern Iraq after taking heavy anti-aircraft artillery damage in aerial combat over Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.  Campbell is currently part of the USAFA military and strategic studies faculty as the chair of the Airpower Innovation and Integration department.

Col. DeDe Halfhill

Halfhill has been in the Air Force for 24 years and is a special assistant for Public Affairs to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  She has taught classes on women in national security and foreign policy at Georgetown University, started the “Dare to Lead” Facebook page in the Air Force, and earlier this year was the keynote speaker at the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute's 15th Annual Impact Leadership Dinner.

The virtual fly-in event is being held on May 11 to honor Harriett Quimby, who in 1911 was awarded a U.S. pilot's certificate by the Aero Club of America, becoming the first woman to gain a pilot's license in the United States.  Born May 11, 1875, Quimby lived only to the age of 37, but she influenced the role of women in aviation.  She died in a plane crash July 1, 1912, at the third annual Boston Aviation Meet.