All-female C-17 crew
From left, Airman 1st Class Casey Jackson, loadmaster, Capt. Lisa Cannon, pilot, 1st Lt Amy Moore, co-pilot, and Staff Sgt. Kelsey Gainer, loadmaster, pose for a photo aboard a C-17 Globemaster III at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Oct. 13, 2011. All four are deployed from the 62nd Operational Support Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and were part of an all-female combat support mission into Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Hank Hoegen)
All-female C-17 crew delivers

by Tech. Sgt. Hank Hoegen
376th AEW

10/18/2011 - Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan -- The phrase "once in a blue moon" refers to an event that takes place on rare occasions. In the male-dominated aircrew career fields, an all-female flight crew might be considered just that rare. However, Air Force has come a long way since 1991 when Congress repealed a law prohibiting women from flying in combat.

Recently a C-17 aircrew deployed to the Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan had the opportunity to fly a combat mission with "just the gals."Capt. Lisa Cannon, pilot; 1st Lt. Amy Morse, co-pilot; and Staff Sgt. Kelsey Gainer and Airman 1st Class Casey Jackson, loadmasters, are all deployed from the 62nd Operations Support Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and assigned to the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron here.

While the crew was excited to be part of an all-female flight, they really just see it as another day at work.

Gainer, who has 2,500 flying hours - 1,300 in combat zones--said, "We're not trying to be special or anything ... but it is a male-dominated career path so it's just kind of fun to have an all-female crew."

As Jackson sees it, it doesn't matter who makes up the crew. If you are part of the crew, you're family.

"We're all on the same team ... you get the mission done, and you don't really let gender get in the way," said Cannon, a 2002 Air Force Academy graduate with 294 combat sorties to her credit.

During dinner the ladies joked and had fun as if they were at the family dinner table. However, once they set foot on the aircraft it wasn't a female running the preflight check list, or a female setting up to receive pallets. They were Airmen focused on completing the mission, which was transporting coalition troops and their equipment safely to Afghanistan.

Moore, a 2008 Air Force Academy graduate with 160 combat flight hours, never saw herself flying combat missions as a child. However, she feels privileged to have the opportunity to participate in that type of mission now.

"It's neat to have a measurable impact (on contingency operations) with the large amount of cargo we move and troops we transport," Moore said.

Though the crew looks at this mission as they would any other, they also see the potential to use opportunities like this for recruiting efforts.

Gainer thinks it will be "more motivating for young women to want to join ... saying, 'hey look at all those women doing awesome things'."

Female Airmen flying in combat is nothing new, and all-female crews are probably more frequent than most people see. When these Airmen found they would be flying together, they didn't see it as an attention getter or a news story. These Airmen, who happen to be female, only saw it as a chance to work with close friends.

"You fly with different crews all the time and you might not even know the person with whom you are flying," Moore said. "So, it's fun to fly with someone with whom you already get along."