Female aviators at Laughlin bond through mentorship group

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anne McCready
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- As of 2020, the Air Force pilot careerfield is made up of approximately 93.5 percent men and only 6.5 percent women, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

With the encouragement of Lt. Col. Libby Music, 47th Student Squadron director of operations, Capt. Melany Delgado, 47th Student Squadron I-flight class commander and instructor pilot, took the initiative to address the gender disparity and revitalized Laughlin’s Female Aviator Mentorship Group.

“Women do not have enough mentors who are also women,” Delgado said. “This group is a judgment-free zone in which women can discuss any question or any topic with the support of other women from different levels of experience and progression in their career.”

Delgado began planning meeting dates and topics, and gathering the names of Laughlin’s female fliers.

Together, the women formed a platform where female aviators of the 47th Flying Training Wing could grow personally and professionally, and to give them an arena to voice any questions best answered by other women.

They’ve covered topics such as overcoming self-imposed limits, creating a work-to-life balance, including children and how it affects their career, understanding role expectations with mil-to-mil relationships, and addressing adversity while leading diverse teams with difficult personalities. 

In a previous assignment at Laughlin, Music was approached by one of her students--a young woman who wanted to know if she could start a family and if so, when. She also wondered if women had the means to relieve themselves while flying a fighter jet, like men did.

“I knew that if this student had these very female-specific questions about work and life, so must many others,” Music said. “It’s important for leadership to make sure all their Airmen are taken care of and feel comfortable in the workplace. When Airmen feel comfortable in the workplace, they are able to give more to the mission.”

Col. Carey Jones, 47th Flying Training Wing vice commander, believes the value in the Female Aviators Mentorship Group is in giving a smaller demographic the opportunity to learn lessons and secrets of success. She sees encouragement in gathering with other women because sometimes they find themselves trying to fit an idea of what they’re supposed to be as an officer, when each individual brings such unique qualities and experience to the team.

“Having the mentorship group gives an opportunity in an informal setting to talk to people who’ve done those things--maybe not done them perfectly--but done them successfully,” Jones said. “Everyone in the group is not the same. We think differently, and that helps me understand the challenges they have that I don’t, and the challenges I have that they don’t. Now, I can advocate for them.”

When Jones was going through ROTC in college, Air Force fighter pilot, Jeannie M. Leavitt visited the university. For Jones, seeing someone who looked like her succeeding in a careerfield she hadn’t considered, caused her to learn more about it and sparked an interest in fighter aviation for her.

Team XL’s Female Aviator Mentorship Group continues to encourage and lead one another with greater unity than before. As a community, they hope to not only help each other become better leaders and pilots, but also form a network of support for all sisters-in-flight.