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Norway welcomes first female fighter pilot in 30 years, highlights family ties

  • Published
  • By Capt. Daniel Lindstrom
  • 80 FTW

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- In a significant moment for the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program, Norway celebrated the graduation of its first female fighter pilot in nearly three decades. This accomplished pilot, whose identity remains confidential in adherence to military protocol, is poised to play a crucial role in augmenting Norway's air defense capabilities as the first Norwegian female to fly the F-35.

The pilot also has unique family ties to the U.S. Air Force. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. Army Air Forces established the China Defensive Campaign, utilizing different airfields on mainland China to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Japanese-held territories through the end of the war. The Norwegian pilot’s grandfather, a son of missionaries in China, lived near Ankang Airfield at the time. As a 7-year-old boy, he befriended numerous U.S. service members stationed in Ankang. Then tragedy struck.

The young man was bitten by a rabid dog, but there was no anti-rabies serum available in that region. According to the grandfather, a U.S. officer saw the need and commanded one of his pilots to find the serum, saying not to return unless he had it in hand.  It took the pilot four days before he arrived back. After having flown to Chengdu and Kunming, he had finally located the serum in Calcutta, India. The medicine neutralized the rabies virus and led to the boy’s restored health, ultimately enabling him to have children and grandchildren of his own, including the aforementioned pilot graduate.

With wings in sight on the day of her graduation, the pilot’s grandfather came to Sheppard Air Force Base to visit and give a gift of thanks to another U.S. military aviator. Col. Brad Orgeron, commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing and ENJJPT, was presented with a photo album of Ankang Airfield from 1942 to 1945.  The pictures that line the pages were given to the boy after his recovery, and years later he created digital files to put in a small booklet detailing those years in China.

“The story of this graduate’s grandfather highlights an important message to you all tonight,” Col. Orgeron said to the class at their graduation ceremony. “As a pilot in the NATO alliance, you will have opportunities beyond your wildest dreams. This job will take you all over the world, and you never know what adventures you will be a part of. I would love to trade places with any of you to do it all again.”

During the graduation festivities, the Norwegian family was able to tell the story of friendships that helped save a life, and they created new friendships with allies and partners that will continue into the future.