Air Force Reservists honor WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots

  • Published
  • By Ann Skarban
  • 302 Airlift Wing
As the Reserve C-130 parked and engines were shut down, the all-female aircrew from the 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. took off their headsets and began unbuckling and climbing out of their seats to get to the back of the aircraft. They were hoping to get a good look through the open ramp at the special passengers they were scheduled to pick up at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. 

Women Airforce Service Pilots from WWII would be joining the crew for their last flight in a military aircraft as part of the last national WASP reunion in Irving, Texas.
"It is such an honor to be a part of this," said Master Sgt. Jane Link, 302nd Airlift Wing C-130 flight engineer. "Being a part of this great crew and flying these women who have served before us is truly a blessing." 

Air Force Reserve women aviators and airmen from the 315th AW, Charleston AFB, S.C. began forming two parallel lines facing each other outside of the C-130's lowered ramp and door creating a reception line for the WWII aviation veterans. 

Moments later, the blue Air Force bus transporting the WASP pulled up. Maj. Colleen Cameron and Capt. Kristina Guerrero, 302nd AW pilots who flew the large aircraft to Dallas, quickly boarded the bus to greet the women and ask what they were up for in terms of their final military flight. The WASP took little time to responding telling the two Reserve pilots, "Give us a ride and don't hold back." 

The crew then set the flight plan for their WASP passengers who ranged in age from 84 to 91 years, deciding the group would attempt a proficiency training mission to Avenger Field in Sweet Water, Texas - the airfield where all WASP were trained in the early 1940s. 

The WWII aviators were helped down off the bus and carefully made their way to the two rows of awaiting Reserve escorts members. 

When asked if she was excited to get in the aircraft to fly, Jan Goodrum, former WWII test pilot and current WASP President said, "Of course I'm excited, we're going to fly!"
As the WASP made their way to the C-130 the two lines of women Reservists clad in flight suits and air battle uniforms were called to attention, saluted smartly and began to sing. The women's harmonious voices singing the Air Force song, unaccompanied, made a most fitting welcome and tribute to the women aviators of WWII. Each WASP was formally greeted and locked arms with their military escort as they walked up the slight incline of the C-130 ramp. 

The WASP along with military escorts took their places in the cargo seats and immediately buckled up for their ride. After the safety brief and ear protection was handed out, the engines started and the WASP taxied to begin their final flight.
Once at cruising altitude over the Texas landscape, the WASP took turns peering out the windows and visiting the flight deck. 

WASP Marty Wyall of Ft. Wayne, Ind. took her turn on the flight deck just as the aircraft was approaching Avenger Airfield in Sweetwater, Texas. Wyall was in the last class of WASP pilots and told of how her class had to clear the airfield of PT-17s and PT-13s while stationed at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo, Texas. 

From the flight deck Wyall was able to see the airfield where she trained at more than sixty years ago. She commented, "This place looks the same from up here. The only thing missing are the smudge pots." Wyall explained that when she flew, Avenger Airfield did not have electricity. Smudge pots were filled with kerosene and lit to allow night landings. Wyall went on to explain if the wind switched direction, it would take up to 45 minutes to move and relight the pots. 

After leaving the flight deck and returning to her cargo seat in the fuselage Wyall commented on Maj. Colleen Cameron's flying skills, "She is a wonderful pilot. I am so proud, " she added. 

Then after one hour, the C-130 returned to Love Field. As the aircraft landed all of the WASP applauded, showing their appreciation for this opportunity to experience their last military flight. Hugs and well wishes were exchanged between the WASP and the Air Force Reservists as they exited the aircraft. 

"I cannot believe we are having this great experience," said Capt. Guererro. " I am so inspired by what these women did and to have them flying with us was the ultimate experience. I will never forget this day," she added.