SHELBYVILLE, IN, UNITED STATES
SHELBYVILLE, Ind. - The Indiana National Guard's first female aviator returned to her first unit Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, to reflect on her career of 31 years in the military.
Mindy Barbe accepted a commission as an officer after graduating from Ball State University with an degree in criminal justice in 1982.
Barbe completed flight school in 1984 as distinguished honor graduate and was one of the four women selected to attend.
Barbe credits her parents for their support when she was younger and starting a career.
"My parents have always been in support of what I wanted to do. It’s the same to this day," said Barbe.
Her husband was also a motivator throughout her career.
“He was my No. 1 cheerleader and biggest supporter,” she said.
He passed away in 2008. They were married for 20 years.
Barbe's love for flying keeps her busy as a flight instructor at Fort Rucker, Ala., where she also drills as an aviator with the Army Reserve.
After reaching her mandatory retirement date at the rank of lieutenant colonel, she decided to become a warrant officer in order to continue serving her country. She now has the rank of chief warrant officer two.
In 1984, a reporter interviewed Barbe about becoming Indiana's first female aviator. However, Barbe has never thought of herself as being the first female aviator.
"Maybe it’s because of the people that were around. It wasn’t that I was something different. I think that’s why it didn’t seem unnatural to me. I wasn’t breaking the ground for anything. For Indiana to give me the opportunity back in 1983 to go to flight school, who would have ever thought that would happen?" said Barbe.
Contrary to how Barbe looks at herself, many soldiers look up to her as a type of role model for their career.
"It was an honor and privilege to meet the first female Indiana pilot," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michelle Poppewell, an aviator with the 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion in Shelbyville, Ind.
"She has a very positive outlook on life. She does not look at herself as an idol, but she definitely portrays those characteristics," said Poppewell.
The military is currently expanding what positions are available for women wanting to serve.
Barbe was asked about women no longer being prohibited from serving in certain career paths and how she handled the same situation almost 30 years ago.
"It doesn’t matter what sex you are, you have a job to do. As a soldier, you need to meet those standards, whatever that is. We are no different. If we can meet the standards, that’s what we are supposed to do, if we can’t, then we need to choose a different MOS," said Barbe.
As far as what the future holds for the first female aviator from Indiana, she plans on serving in the military until she is required to retire. Once that day comes, Barbe plans to "still serve the public" in some capacity.
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This work, Indiana's first female aviator reflects on 31-year career, by CPT Tyler Mitchell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.