This year WMA is honored to have sponsored another selection to the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame: US Coast Guard First Women in Aviation!
On January 1, 1976, the U. S. Coast Guard, in one single move, authorized women to participate in all aviation ratings, officer and enlisted, at the same time. The first nine women selected, three officers and six enlisted, are the Coast Guard’s First Women Aviators and Aircrew. They opened the door for future generations of women to pursue their military aviation dreams in the U. S. Coast Guard. They include Colleen Cain, Vivien Crea, Janna Lambine, Erminia Chillon, Andrea Gardner, Dior Lowen Hubbel, Kelly Mogk Larson Robyn Rogers Norwell, and Elizabeth Uhrig. Here is a short biography of each. Join us in Long Beach to honor them!
JANNA LAMBINE: Janna, the daughter of a retired Navy Commander, grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Bates College in 1973. She joined the USCG, and applied for flight training while attending Officer Candidate School; after graduation, she began flight training, receiving her wings at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida on 4 March 1977 (Coast Guard Aviator # 1812). She was designated as a Coast Guard HH-3F helicopter pilot on 6 May 1977; making her the first female aviator, the first female helicopter pilot, and the first female HH-3 helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard. Janna transitioned to Reserves in January 1981 where she served in a variety of positions both west and east coast. Janna earned her MBA from Portland State University. She retired in 2000 as a Commander and currently enjoys life on Cape Cod sailing, kayaking, clamming, and walking the beaches.
VIVIEN CREA: Vivien, an “Army brat”, graduated from the University of Texas (Austin) in 1972 and completed Officer Candidate School in 1973. She received her wings on 29 April 1977, as the second female aviator and the first to fly fixed-wing for the Coast Guard (Coast Guard Aviator # 1820), and, after completing the USAF program, became the first Cost Guard woman qualified in HC-130. Vivien rose through the ranks to become the first woman to serve as Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. Vice Admiral Vivien Crea retired on 7 August 2009. VADM Crea was inducted into the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2010. Her career consisted of the following firsts: first female Aircraft Commander; first female Military Aide to the President; first female to Command a Coast Guard Air Station; first female Executive Assistant to the Commandant of the Coast Guard; first female selected as Rear Admiral; first female appointed as Vice Admiral; first female of any Military Service to be appointed as Second in Command of the military force; and first female to be awarded the Coast Guard’s Ancient Albatross honors, as the aviator on active duty who has held that designation for the longest time.”
COLLEEN CAIN: Originally from Burlington, Iowa, Colleen graduated from the University of California in Santa Clara in 1974, completed Officer Candidate School in 1976, and began flight training in 1978. Colleen received her wings on 8 June 1979 (Coast Guard Aviator # 1988) as Coast Guard’s third woman aviator, and the first women qualified as HH-52 helicopter pilot. In the early morning hours of 7 January 1982, in torrential rain, heavy winds, and near-zero visibility, Colleen and two other crew-members launched at 4 AM on a Search and Rescue mission. That day, they made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation “so that others may live” when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in the Wailau Valley while responding to a distress call from a 74-foot fishing vessel in danger of sinking with seven persons on board. At the age of 29, Colleen Cain became the Coast Guard’s first woman aviator to die in the line of duty. In 1985, in tribute to her, the 100-room residence hall at the Coast Guard Reserve Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia was named Cain Hall.
Note on Coast Guard Aircraft Mechanics & Aircrew: In the Coast Guard, all “fixers” are also “fliers”. All aviation rated personnel are required to qualify for an aircrew position after graduation from their respective “A-School” (apprentice level training). The following six women are the FIRST women to graduate from an Aviation Technical Training Center "A-School" and begin performing maintenance and flying operational missions for the Coast Guard.
ROBYN ROGERS: Robyn enlisted in 1974 and while serving as a Seaman Apprentice at a Communications Station she learned that the ban had been lifted so she could pursue her dream to be a helicopter mechanic. Robyn graduated from AD A-School on 5 August 1977, the first woman AD in the Coast Guard, and, the only woman in a class of 18. She worked on the HH-3 and HH-52 helicopters and qualified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). In 1980, Robyn's proficiency as a HH-52 mechanic and aircrew earned her assignment as the first woman in an Aviation Detachment in support of Coast Guard Cutters patrolling the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Robin left the Coast Guard in 1982 to continue her passion and work in aviation maintenance: Aerospatiale Helicopters; Overhaul Division of American Airlines; and in Alaska with ERA Helicopters.
ANDREA GARDNER: Andrea enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1976, with hopes of becoming a Marine Science Technician or Quartermaster. During boot camp she learned that most seagoing rates were unavailable to women, but jumped at an opening for Aviation Structural Mechanic (AM) A-School. On 28 September 1976, she became the first woman qualified as AM in the Coast Guard. She later attended “C-School” (journeyman level training) for the Grumman HU-16E Albatross fixed-wing aircraft. Andrea left the Coast Guard in 1978, raised two children, earned her Bachelor’s degree and her graduate degree in Social Work in 2012. Andrea became a Masters Crisis Intervention Specialist and a licensed clinical social worker for the State of Oregon.
ERMINIA CHILLON: Minnie enlisted in the Coast Guard on 23 May 1976. After scoring so well on aptitude tests that she qualified for several schools, she chose Aviation Electricians Mate (AE) even though there were no women in the AE rating. In February 1978, Minnie became the first woman qualified AE in the Coast Guard. She worked on the HH-52A single turbine amphibious helicopter, where she was, again, the only woman aviation mechanic and aircrew. One of her memories of becoming the first woman flight aircrew was that the dry suits required for the over-water search and rescue missions were all made for men, so they did not fit! The Commanding Officer sent her to the manufacturer to be fitted in person. After four years of dedicated service, Minnie concluded her Coast Guard service in August 1980. She currently works for L’Oreal USA Inc.
ELIZABETH UHRIG: Betty applied to the Coast Guard Academy in 1976, but when she wasn’t selected she decided to enlist. She graduated from the Aviation Electronics Technician (AT) A-School in March 1978, the first woman qualified AT in the Coast Guard. She qualified as a Radioman and Navigator on C-130 and HU-16 fixed-wing aircraft. She was accepted to the Coast Guard Academy and graduated in 1984 and was chosen to attend flight school. Betty winged on 31 August 1985 (Coast Guard Aviator # 2415). She progressed to Aircraft Commander, became an Instructor Pilot and served as Executive Officer at Air Station Washington, District of Columbia, flying the Gulfstream III for the Coast Guard Commandant. After retiring 2000, Betty was hired as the first woman pilot for Chevron Corporation, flying the Gulfstream for their executive leadership. She again moved quickly from line pilot to Captain to Chief Pilot. In 2009 Betty became the General Manager overseeing Chevron’s 120+ world-wide airplane and helicopter fleet. Betty retired from Chevron in 2017, having been to 109 countries in two fulfilling careers.
DIOR LOWEN: Dior was sworn into the Coast Guard by her father, AE Master Chief Darryl Lowen, in Oklahoma City, February 1974. She served at a radio station and was part of the Coast Guard’s Honor Guard before attending Aviation Survivalman (ASM) A-School. Dior graduated in April 1976, the first woman qualified ASM in the Coast Guard; she received her aircrew wings on 2 October 1977, as a Flight Mechanic on the HH-3 helicopter. She also earned her EMT qualification. Dior left the Coast Guard in 1978. She worked at Kennedy Space Center where she became a Senior Solid Rocket Booster Deceleration Technician and packed the Booster Parachutes for the Space Shuttle Program. Dior retired from USA and KSC with close to 28 years of service in the space industry. Dior and her husband now reside in Palm Bay, Florida.
KELLY MOGK (LARSON): Kelly enlisted in the Coast Guard in August 1984. She attended the Aviation Survivalman (ASM) A-School and became the first woman to complete the Navy’s Rescue Swimmer (RS) School on 23 May 1986, making her the first woman ASM/RS in the Coast Guard. She qualified as a Rescue Swimmer in both the HH-3 and HH-52 helicopters. One of Kelly’s most memorable rescues occurred in January 1989, when she exposed herself to hypothermia freeing a downed Air National Guard F-4 pilot from his parachute and remained in the water for a back-up helicopter to recover her from the water while the first helicopter expedited transport of the pilot to medical care. She earned an Air Medal and the in-person congratulations of then President George H. W. Bush for her heroic actions. She was selected for Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in February 1994 and completed Naval Flight Training in Pensacola, Florida and winged on 3 May 1996 (Coast Guard Aviator # 3278). Before retiring in 2010, Kelly served as the Coast Guard District Thirteen Command Center Chief.