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Molly B., Navy Pilot This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Unknown
Molly is a 28-year-old lieutenant in the Navy. She is one of three females who fly
F-14 Tomcat fighter jets. She is stationed in Virginia Beach,
Virginia.




What got you interested in the armed
forces?




First, it was my older sister who was in an Army ROTC
program, then it was motivating commercials and books I read on the neat
things people in the military do.



How difficult was it to
balance college, Navy and playing volleyball?




I went to the U.S.
Naval Academy and we did have a lot to balance. I was more productive
studying and getting things done in volleyball season. There was very
little time to goof off, so that made it easy. Being on the volleyball
team was a blessing; because it was such a stressful environment, my
teammates and I were always sharing stories of how bad we had it. It was
a great stress-reliever.



Describe what you do in a typical day.


I've been in training for four and a half years; my
job has been to study the aircraft I've flown and the training hops
which expound on book knowledge. But soon I am taking a F-14 Tomcat out
to a carrier for my carrier qualification. I'll do 10 day landings and
six night landings. Once I complete that, grading on my training will
end, and I will be assigned to a fleet squadron. That job will be 10
hours every day until cruise deployment. I will have several ground
jobs, like looking after the troops who work for me and various other
paperwork. I will also fly once a day. Once a squadron goes on cruise
there is a routine that develops, but the hours are pretty wacky. We'll
probably start getting to the ready room around 10 and work or fly until
two in the morning.



How many hours a week do you
work?




I work about 35 hours a week now, but it can go up to
80.



What initiation process did you go through to earn
your wings?


There is no initiation, unless you want to call
landing on a moving ship an initiation. After the nice
ceremony of having our wings pinned on by parents, spouses or the
Skipper, the families get together for a brunch. There isn't the blood
wings initiation I am sure you saw on TV. Ours is a classy event and we
wear dress uniforms.



Do you have to live on the
base?




Single folks like me don't have the option of living on
base. That is not a bad deal; most places in town are nicer than base
housing. Married couples and families can live on the base, but some
places have a waiting list.



Could you give me a ballpark
figure of how much money you make in the armed forces?




As an ensign, you earn roughly $32,000. My income as a lieutenant is about
$40,000, plus medical, dental and compensation for
housing.



How many women are involved in your type of job?



Currently the F-14 community (pilots and Radar Intercept
Officers involved with flying F-14s) has three female pilots and 10 RIOs
out of 250 people.



Is it difficult being one of the few women?



Not really. I never try to set myself apart because of
being a female, and I firmly believe in carrying one's own weight. I
don't think being a female is an excuse or a hindrance for anything in
this profession. It is nice being "one of the guys" as long as
you also have time to be one of the girls.



Do you find it
difficult to date since you are in the armed forces? Do civilians
approach you or do you date men in the service?


I tend to hang
out with the guys I work with. I haven't met any civilians who can
understand our weird schedules or deal with six-month
deployments.



Do men respect you equally as the other
men?


As long as you pull your own weight, you will be respected.
That goes for any profession, any team, any
organization.



What is the most important lesson you have
learned in the Navy?


What it means to be a leader, not that I
have this skill mastered by any means. I learned by being put in charge
of both my peers and a junior group of people. Peers are more difficult.
Ruling with an iron fist doesn't work very well; for people to follow
you, they must trust you. You have to be fair 100% of the time. You need
to get to know the people who work for you. You can't ask them to do
anything you wouldn't do. And you need to be present, you can't lead
without being around.



What is the toughest challenge you
have faced?


Physically, it's a toss-up between two-a-day
volleyball practices during the summer and Navy SERE (Survival, Evasion,
Resistance and Escape) School.

Mentally, landing on an aircraft
carrier at night.



How often do you get to go
home?




I've been fortunate to make it home for every Christmas.
This Thanksgiving was the first one I missed, although I did get to
spend it with family in North Carolina. I occasionally make an
unexpected trip home. I will probably make it home less in my fleet
squadron because of the six-month deployment on a carrier out of the
country.



Will you ever be sent into combat? If so, will
you be one of the first women?




There is no restriction preventing
me from going into combat. I am glad about that even though I hope it
never comes to that. I joined the Navy to serve. I love our country with
all its good and bad. I want to be a part in defending it, directly or
indirectly. The ban on women in combat was lifted in the early 1990s; my
older sister served in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, though not in
combat.



If we were to go to war, what would be your role
in the attack?


All F-14 crews are trained in delivering bombs to
a target (and dropping them) as well as escorting those aircraft that
do. That may involve chasing away enemy aircraft, too.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Swan said...
Apr. 24 at 9:30 pm:
When did you guys have this interview? I need to know for my school paper on Navy pilots. Thanks!
 
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