First Female Commander for the Snowbirds

Jenny - posted on 05/07/2010 ( 3 moms have responded )

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MOOSE JAW, Sask. - A sky-high glass ceiling shattered Thursday when a woman took over as commander of the renowned Snowbirds aerobatics team.

Lt.-Col. Maryse Carmichael is the first female to lead the squadron in its 40-year history.

"The squadron is such a patriotic symbol for many Canadians and it is an honour and privilege to be in command of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds," Lt.-Col. Maryse Carmichael said at a change of command ceremony at CFB Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan.

A week earlier, she had been checking the rudder of her CT-114 Tutor jet to make sure it hadn't been painted pink. There had been jokes flying around that it might be. But the only thing that distinguished her jet from a dozen or so others lined up on the tarmac were the black letters on the tail: "CO" for commanding officer.

"It took a little bit of time for women to become pilots (because) it's one of the non-traditional roles," Carmichael told The Canadian Press in an interview. "Then to gain the experience required to be in command of a squadron takes ... many years.''

Carmichael is modest about her new role. She notes that while it's a first for the Snowbirds, women have already led other squadrons in the Canadian Forces.

"I don't want to downplay it. It is a fact,'' she said of being the first Snowbirds leader. "But really, for me this posting is about the squadron.

"I was on the team a few years ago and I was the first woman to fly with the Snowbirds and that was really different. But now this posting is really about commanding this squadron and commanding the men and women that really represent the Canadian Forces across Canada.''

The native of Quebec City, who is in her late 30s, has spent a long time with the military. She started out as an air cadet at the age of 13 and joined the military fulltime six years later. She has been a flying instructor, has flown with 434 Combat Support Squadron in Greenwood, N.S., and transported VIPs in Ottawa.

She was posted to 3 Wing Bagotville in Quebec in 2003 as the deputy wing operations officer and moved to 8 Wing Trenton in eastern Ontario in 2007 to fly the CC-130 Hercules.

In 2000, between her time in Ottawa and Bagotville, Carmichael was selected to fly Snowbird 3. She later flew Snowbird 2 and was the team's executive officer.

Things are different now.

"All those years ago, it used to be my focus was about flying the airplane and meeting all the Canadians and Americans that we meet on the road.

"This time around it is ... really about the entire squadron, about leading the men and women of 431 Squadron to accomplish our mission every day. So it has a broader focus this time."

She remains the only woman to ever pilot a Snowbird. But Carmichael, who is married to a fighter pilot and has two young daughters, believes that will change one day. She said there's a lot of pride in being a member of the squadron and gender is irrelevant.

"When you're flying and you have a helmet on your head, it doesn't matter whether you're a man or woman. As long as you can stay in formation, the public from the ground doesn't see it, so that's the way I see it, too.

``I just do what I love to do and I love flying and I'm fortunate enough that it has worked out. But if I can influence not only young girls but boys to follow their passion, then that's great.''

The Snowbirds were to perform their first show of the season in front of a military audience Friday

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Sharon - posted on 05/07/2010

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OOHHHH they're stunt planes. Not fighting planes? OHHHHH its confusing. First I read that they're stunt planes, then I read they got started as a bomber wing, then I read that they are aerial combat... lol

Still, Excellent for her!!

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