Tell us about your childhood. What inspires a little black girl to first want to become a police officer and then a combat pilot?
At a young age I saw a police officer riding a horse downtown and when I was in college, I saw a black women in a flight suit. I was at an Army ROTC leadership training. Because I had enlisted in the army and joined the ROTC because I wanted to have a strategic advantage for trying to get into the police academy. During that journey was career day, 1994, hot summer day. Went to the aviation camp and saw a black woman in a flight suit and I was blown away. It was a good lesson for me because it’s about access and exposure. I didn’t even want to go to the aviation camp. I even made the comment under my breath, ‘black people don’t even fly.’ I did NOT want to go to the aviation camp that bad.
Truly the lesson for me in that one is that you have to open for discovery, you can’t just be turned off because opportunities come from everywhere.
Most little girls don’t want to be police officers. How did your parents receive the your goals?
When I said I wanted to be a police officer that rode a horse downtown, just like any kid that says they want to be fireman or police officer or whatever, they were very encouraging. When I was little they told me I could do anything I set my mind to. When I fell in love with horses, they got me a horse. So they totally supported my dreams and my aspirations.
Most people ask for ponies, and don’t get them.
Maybe I didn’t have average parents, that’s why I’m not doing average things. But I think everyone has the opportunity to switch on what excites them.
But when I was going into the military [the Army in 1993], I didn’t even tell my parents I was going into the military, I just did it. When I wanted to go in the Marine Corp, I talked to my parents about it because I was going in active duty. And my stepdad did not, did NOT want me to go into the Marine Corp. And he served three tours in Vietnam and he was a Marine. ‘Baby, I see how they treat women and I don’t want my baby being treated like that. “ And I said, ‘Dad, if I don’t do it, who will?’