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thedrifter
01-21-04, 12:07 PM
Female combat pilot is one strong woman

By Linda McIntosh
COMMUNITY NEWS WRITER

January 21, 2004

CAMP PENDLETON She can pull a jeep, carry a 140-pound rock and flip a 5-ton tire.

But that is nothing for Capt. Vernice Armour, one of the base's Strongest Warriors.

The quietly confident Super Cobra attack helicopter pilot is the first black female combat pilot in the Department of Defense.

"The harder the challenge, the bigger the drive," said Armour, 30, who hopes to be an example and motivate others just as others have inspired her.

Back in 1994, when she was in the Army Reserve and attending an ROTC career day, she met a black female Army pilot and became interested in aviation.

After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in exercise science, Armour joined the Marines in 1998.

"I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to be in the most disciplined hardcore fighting machine out there," Armour said.

By mid-2001 she had earned her wings, and last April she was promoted to captain in Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169.

Armour recently returned from deployment in Iraq.

"We were called to do what we've been training for, and we actually got a chance to do what we have practiced," Armour said.

To Armour, one of the hardest parts of Super Cobra training is studying the voluminous tactical and systems manuals, each hundreds of pages long.

"It's like you're a boxer and one manual teaches the punches while the other teaches strategy," Armour said.

She never considers herself done studying. Or training.

Physical training is the fun part for Armour. Several years ago, she started working out in the 13 Area gym with the powerlifting and bodybuilding team.

For fun, she entered the female division of the base's Strongest Warrior contest, which includes such requirements as jeep-pulling and tire-flipping. She was named a Strongest Warrior in both 2001 and 2002.

Armour won the base's Female Athlete of the Year Award in 2002, the same year she played running back for the San Diego Sunfire women's professional football team.

But ask Armour what she is proudest of, and she does not talk about awards.

Instead she tells about the time her young nephew was deciding which of his relatives to visit on the West Coast and chose her.

"He asked my dad, 'Isn't Aunt Vernice a Marine? I want to be a Marine when I grow up.'"

To Armour, that was a proud moment.

"You can accomplish your dreams," Armour said. "If you have faith in God and in yourself, all things are possible."


http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/military/images/040121strong.jpg

CHARLIE NEUMAN / Union-Tribune
Marine Capt. Vernice Armour is the Department of Defense's first black female combat pilot. She flies AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters like this one at the Camp Pendleton airstrip.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/military/20040121-9999_m1m21camp.html


Sempers,

Roger
:marine: