Whiteman AFB graduates 10th ever female stealth bomber pilot

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from Chelsea Ecklebe, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Capt. Lauren Kram graduated from Initial Qualification Training, making her the tenth woman to become a B-2 Spirit pilot, Oct. 4.

In the B-2’s 30-year history, only 498 pilots have qualified to fly the long-range stealth bomber aircraft. The first female pilot to fly the B-2 was retired Lt. Col. Jennifer “Wonder” Avery. She was the 278th pilot to qualify and is the only female who has flown the stealth bomber in combat.

Out of the 10 female B-2 pilots, three currently fly with the 393rd Bomb Squadron and one is the commander of Detachment 5, 29th Training Systems Squadron, at Whiteman AFB. This is the highest number of female B-2 pilots that have been assigned to Whiteman AFB at one time.

Every B-2 pilot is a graduate of a rigorous six-month training program. The Initial Qualification Training program includes 266 hours of academics, 30 exams, 46 simulator missions and 10 flights in the B-2 Spirit. After graduation, the newly minted stealth pilots continue with Mission Qualification Training, a program designed to train aviators in tactically employing the aircraft.

The culture in the 13th and 393rd Bomb Squadrons at Whiteman AFB is ever-evolving and seeing women in the squadrons is not as unusual as it once was.

“I feel like the culture has changed dramatically from when women were first allowed to become pilots to when I went through pilot training,” Kram said. “I’m lucky because I am a female pilot at a time when it has become normalized.”

She says it is more surprising to see the public’s reaction when she is in her flight suit, because many people are not accustomed to seeing a female pilot.

“Seeing more female pilots in places such as the airport and grocery store helps the public realize being a pilot isn’t only a male profession,” Kram said.

This “normalization” has come a long way, and most recent female pilots are grateful for those who have come before them.

“You need to see someone who looks like you to know you can do it,” said Capt. Lauren “Switch” Kolod, assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron. “I never had, but that’s changing. When I put that helmet on, I become just another pilot, which is the best thing in the world. I so appreciate these women for paving the way and making it just a little easier for me.”

Paving the way was not easy for the early female B-2 pilots, but that did not stop them from excelling in their careers, from pilot training to holding leadership positions in the Air Force.

“We stuck out like sore thumbs,” Lt. Col. Jennie “Dixie” Swiechowicz recalled.

She said it was hard for her to find her place because she wasn’t exactly one of the guys, but did not quite fit in with their wives either.

“It didn’t deter me,” Swiechowicz said. “If anything, it made me want it more.”

In the bomb squadrons at Whiteman AFB, these women no longer stick out like sore thumbs. They are not characterized as “female pilots,” but are seen as the same as their male counterparts. They are all aviators who bring their talents and strengths to the most lethal aircraft in the Air Force’s arsenal.

“The airplane doesn’t care who’s flying it,” Swiechowicz says. “Flying is the great equalizer.”

For more information, visit https://www.whiteman.af.mil/About/Whiteman-Warriors/Pilot-Vignettes/

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