Flying squadron's first female commander has 'skills, poise and guts'


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

Lt. Col. Brenda Cartier became the first female to command an Air Force Special Operations Command flying squadron Feb. 20 when she took command of the 4th Special Operations Squadron Ghostriders.

Cartier’s ascension comes 16 years after the Air Force first allowed women to fly combat missions and four and a half years after Lt. Col. Martha McSally became the first female to command an Air Force combat flying squadron.

Despite the time lapse, the AC-130U Spooky II fire control officer said AFSOC is “right on time” for having a female command a flying squadron and is pleased “the gender issue is becoming less and less highlighted.”

Cartier said she was one of many female junior officers to cross-train into combat aircraft after the Air Force lifted the ban in 1993 and expects to see more Air Force women taking command positions soon.

“To get to this point it takes a long time,” she said. “AFSOC is careful about developing its leadership and this is a culmination of that.”

Cartier graduated from undergraduate navigation training the same year women started flying combat missions, but missed the cut by a couple of months. She navigated E-3 AWACS her first four years, which included deployments to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

She transferred to AC-130Us in 1997 and has since logged over 4,000 flying hours aboard the gunship. Cartier has deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan and flew aboard one of the first AC-130Us to cross the Iraq border, providing cover fire for special operations teams during the invasion.

However, a mission that stands out for Cartier is one when she never fired a shot. She was the fire control officer on one of two AC-130Us that flew over the special operations team that rescued Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the soldier captured by Iraq forces in 2003.

“Fire control officers like to shoot — but that night we didn’t have to shoot because the operation went so well and I was pretty happy about it,” Cartier said.

Cartier assumed command from her boss, Lt. Col. Jim Rodriquez, during a ceremony in Commando Hangar at Hurlburt Field, Fla. She had served as the squadron’s operations officer since 2007, which is the same year AFSOC named the Ghostriders the command’s top flying squadron.

In June, the Air Force awarded three 4th SOS airmen Distinguished Flying Crosses for a September 2007 mission in Iraq during which the Spooky II crew protected a Navy SEAL team from an insurgent attack.

“There is no doubt Brenda Cartier is the perfect officer to lead the 4th SOS into the future,” Col Dennis Pannell, 1st Special Operations Group commander, said during the ceremony. “She has the skill, poise and guts to take this squadron to the next level.

This is freaking hilarious.

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