Meet The First-Ever Female Enlisted Air Force Pilot

Master Sgt. Christopher, Master Sgt. Raymond, Tech Sgt. Courtney, and Staff Sgt. Matthew pose for a group photo after graduation from Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training at Joint Base San Antonio - Randolph.
Photo Illustration/Randy Martin

Throughout its history as an independent service, The Air Force has required its aircraft to be piloted by commissioned officers — until now.

On Aug. 4, four airmen in the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class completed Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Among them was Tech Sgt. Courtney, the Air Force’s first female enlisted pilot.

“Tech. Sgt. Courtney doesn’t do this because she’s a girl, she just gets up every day and puts her uniform on and comes to work and kicks butt because that’s what she does,” said Maj. Natalie, an instructor pilot with the 558th Flying Training Squadron, told the Air Force in a statement. “That’s who she is. She’s not a woman pilot, she’s a pilot.”

In December 2015, the Air Force made the decision to train enlisted airmen to operate remotely piloted aircraft — more commonly known as drones. In August 2016, the Air Force allowed for enlisted airmen in all Air Force Specialty Codes to apply to be RPA pilots. While 4,000 were initially permitted to apply, the change made more than 87,000 airmen eligible.

During training, the pilots-to-be spend six months sitting the left seat of the control center during flight. They spend another six weeks training to become sensor operators in the right seat, with control cameras mounted on the drones.

"I'm proud to be able to fill that role," Tech. Sgt. Courtney told KEN5 San Antonio. "I'm excited for what it holds and, hopefully, it encourages other young women. It's also nerve-racking because I don't want to just be the first female pilot. I want to be a good pilot regardless of whether I'm a female or male."

Courtney, who has been in the Air Force for 11 years, is one among a class of enlisted trailblazers. Her classmate, Staff Sgt. Matthew, was the top graduate in his Air Force undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft training class. The pair completed their sensor training course, which lasted six weeks, along with two master sergeants, two senior officers, and 14 newly commissioned officers.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Courtney, has her remote piloted aircraft wings pinned on by her sons David and Riley during the 558th Flying Training Squadron's Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Course graduation August 4, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Tech. Sgt. Courtney is the first-ever enlisted female to qualify as an RPA pilot. Name badges were blurred due to Air Force limits on disclosure of identifying information for RPA operators.Air Force photo

The Air Force did not release the airmen’s surnames for security purposes.

“This is a testament to the Air Force assessing and selecting highly competent Airmen who, from day one, strive for the perfection required in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and attack missions they will fly every day,” Lt. Col. Jason Thompson, the 558th FTS commander, said in a press release.

The Air Force will continue to fill its RPA opening with a diverse array of candidates.

“It’s great to fill that role as the first female,” Courtney said. “It’s awesome and humbling, but our units don’t care if you’re male or female, they just want you to be a good pilot.”


The Veterans of Foreign Wars has demanded an apology from President Trump over recent comments in which he downplayed the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries suffered by American troops in an Iranian missile attack.

"The Veterans of Foreign Wars cannot stand idle on this matter," William "Doc" Schmitz, VFW National Commander, said in a statement Friday, noting TBI is a serious injury known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches and other symptoms in the short and long-term.

Read More
The submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) sits anchored at Ulithi Atoll, Dec. 7, 2019 (Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Richard A. Miller)

The Navy is investigating dozens of videos of service members changing in a bathroom which were then shared on the website PornHub, according to a NBC News report.

According to the report, an agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found the videos on PornHub earlier this month. The videos, which have since been taken down, show civilians, sailors and Marines, some of whom have visible name tapes.

Read More
U.S. Army/Jaerett Engeseth

We already knew that Army Rangers were a unique breed of badass, but performing real-time blood transfusions while under enemy fire on the battlefield takes it to an entirely new level.

Read More

An upcoming comedy show is boldly mocking what everyone else is, well, already mocking: The Space Force.

Read More