Aviation for Women

MAR-APR 2016

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

Issue link: https://afwdigital.epubxp.com/i/638688

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Page 18 of 92

16 Aviation forWomen M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 6 The frst female rescue swimmer was Kelly Mogk, who graduated from training in 1986. Since then, six women have completed Rescue Swimmer and AST "A" School. Today, of the approximately 350 active duty ASTs, four are women. The three highlighted here—ASTC Karen Voorhees, AST1 Jamie Vanacore, and ASTC Jodi Wil- liams—traveled vastly different paths to succeed in their spe- cialty, but they all share hardcore physical and mental deter- mination, and a passion for their profession. In 1997, Karen was a 27-year-old cabana pool manager and wife of an ex-para-rescue jumper in Hawaii when she saw a rescue swimmer jumping out of a Coast Guard helicopter. She had recently read Dr. Laura Schlessinger's Ten Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives, one of which, according to Karen, was, "following their husbands around just foat- ing through life." When she saw that Coast Guard swimmer, something spoke to her. Karen's road to AST "A" school was neither short nor easy. Orig- i na l ly f rom New Z ea la nd, she worked through citizenship and secur it y clea rance issues, t hen spent two yea rs as a boat crew member at a small boat station in Oak Island, North Carolina. When it was her turn for AST "A" School, she was disheartened to face resis- tance from the warrant offcer re- sponsible for issuing orders. For- tunately, her station senior chief, who had witnessed her work ethic, determination, and physical abili- ty, intervened. From the small boat station, Kar- en reported for the airman pro- gram at Air Station Los Angeles. The airman program, now defunct, was designed to allow AST candi- dates to prepare physically under the tutelage of operational ASTs for the demands of "A" School. Not ev- eryone in the shop was supportive, even 14 years after Kelly Mogk's success. But in her experience, for every guy who said she couldn't do it, there were two who said she could and were pulling for her. Karen had a strong physical fit- ness foundation, but she still needed a lot of work. She was a competitive swimmer and skier as a child, but drifted away from exercise as a teen. At 20, she became a self- proclaimed "born-again fitness fanatic"; she lost weight, did Jane Fonda work- outs, ra n, a nd inst r ucted step- aerobics. Despite her preparation, she struggled with the pull- up requirement. She had three months to train, worked hard on pyramid pullups, and ultimately blasted the test. The screening test just got her in the door. Once in "A" School, the challenges mounted. There, trainees are never well rested when they complete the physical ftness test; it's always after some other grueling workout. She overcame each new obstacle, but every day was a struggle for her—throw- ing up in the locker room, telling herself to get through this one day. She was seconds from raising her hand to quit after a hard workout when she had her epiphany. She looked down the line on the edge of the pool at her classmates, and saw them, snorkels drooping, tired—defeated mouse syndrome, as she calls it—and realized that everyone else looked exactly the way she felt. Karen advanced to AST2 in a year, and has since served at Air Stations Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Miami, Florida. In What's YOUR number? Interested in learning more about the Aviation Surviv- al Technician rating? Aside from the 2006 Hollywood portrayal of an AST-in-training by Ashton Kutcher in the movie, The Guardian, look for the 2006 book, So Others May Live: Coast Guard's Rescue Swimmers Sav- ing Lives, Defying Death, by Martha LaGuardia-Kotite. In it, she chronicles the history of the AST rating and their heroic exploits, including a chapter dedicated to Kelly Mogk, the frst woman in any service to qualify as an aviation rescue swimmer in 1986, whose daring rescue of a Navy fghter pilot solidifed women's cred- ibility in the rate. LaGuardia-Kotite also recently published the book, Changing the Rules of Engagement, in which she tells the stories of ground-breaking women in the military, including three Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Famers: Vice Adm. Vivien Crea, USCG retired; Col. Ni- cole Malachowski, USAF; and U.S. Representative and Lt. Col. L. Tammy Duckworth, USA retired. Visit her website at www.MarthaKotite.com. To find out more about opportunities in the U.S. Coast Guard and to find a recruiter, visit www.Go- CoastGuard.com.

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