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Submitted By bagzak
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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Operation Desert Storm saw the first female aviator in battle when Maj. Marie T. Rossi took the driver’s seat flying fuel and ammunition to the soldiers crossing into enemy territory. Rossi lost her life when her CH-47 Chinook helicopter went down on March 1, 1991.

Her headstone reads, “The first female commander to fly into battle.” she certainly was not the last.

Today, women of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade continue changing the face of the battlefield by joining the fight as combat aviators, crew chiefs, and helicopter mechanics, showcasing their skills and leadership abilities.

Lt. Col. Gail E. Atkins, commander, 122nd Aviation Support Battalion, 82nd CAB, is no stranger to the changing role of women in combat aviation. The Westchester, Pa., native has served for almost 18 years as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

“We are seeing an evolution with regard to women in combat roles, in how our skills have evolved and how we are exploiting those skills,” Atkins said. “In aviation, we went through this back in 93’, when the military opened up attack aviation to women, so we are 15 years ahead of the curve in aviation compared to where our other branches are.”

Throughout her career, Atkins has seen an increase in number of women who serve alongside her.

“I have an all female staff right now and it’s just the way it has worked out. But I think it is indicative of the number of women who are joining the service,” Atkins said.

Other women have seen changes in their career fields since joining the Army, including Chief Warrant Officer 2 Laura G. Dye a UH-60M Black Hawk pilot, 2nd Aviation Assault Battalion, 82nd CAB. She began her career eight years ago as an enlisted field artillery soldier.

“I always knew I wanted to join the Army but I never had aspirations to be a pilot or work in aviation,” Dye said. “So, when I…...

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