CAMP SPRINGS, Md. - During World War II, Women Air Force Service Pilots broke the gender boundary in the skies as they became the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft. In today's Air Force, women continue the mission for gender equality both in the skies and on the ground.
One such aviator, 1st Lt. Andrea Barry, a UH-1N Huey helicopter pilot at the 1st Helicopter Squadron here at Joint Base Andrews, embodies the spirit of the WASPs as she contributes to an important mission with the Air Force's largest helicopter squadron.
The O'Fallon, Ill., native worked toward getting her private pilot's license during her spare time in high school and flew a Cessna 152. From there, her desire to fly spanned into a full time Air Force career.
"I was also an instructor in gliders at the Air Force Academy which cemented my love for flying and wanting to pursue it as a career," she said. "I joined the Air Force because I wanted to serve my country, and I knew it would open doors to a lot of new experiences and opportunities I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else."
After spending four years at the Academy where she met her husband, who flies U-28As, a modified single-engine Pilatus PC-12, Barry landed here at Andrews.
The 1 HS provides continuous contingency response and offers distinguished visitors airlift in the National Capital Region. Missions at the 1 HS operate at an "always on" basis.
"Someone is always here 24/7-365 days a year," she said. "We are always ready."
Whether escorting high-level military and civilian leaders or participating in a medical evacuation, each day can bring a new adventure.
"It definitely gets your adrenaline pumping; you feel your heart beating fast when you take part in a mission," said Barry. "It's a huge honor knowing the profound impact we have on the NCR."
Barry's journey to fulfill her passion to take to the skies for a living came with a unique set of challenges.
"It was intimidating at first because of the ratio of men to women is so extreme," explained Barry.
There are currently four females of more than 60 aircrew members at the 1 HS, making recognition easy to come by.
"Since there are so few females everything we do, good or bad, is highlighted because everybody sees it and everybody knows about it," she said.
Additionally, Barry's height makes her stand out among her peers, as she is currently the shortest pilot in the U.S. Air Force, she said.
"I was actually limited to what aircraft I could fly because my sitting height and leg length eliminated a lot of my options," said Barry. "I had to get several waivers to fly, but I know I ended up with the best option with helicopters."
Neither height requirements nor skewed gender demographics create a problem working with the tight-knit 1 HS, said Barry.
"The group I work with is very welcoming," she said. "The people are incredible and it's really fun to get to go fly and be a part of the team. The roadblocks keep coming up, but I just keep knocking them down."