Cover Story: Veterans Advantage is Commemorating Women's History Month With A Woman Who Has Made History Today

Marine Capt. Vernice Armour is the Department of Defense’s first black female combat pilot. She flies AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters like this one at the Camp Pendleton airstrip. Photo:CHARLIE NEUMAN / Union-Tribune

"I’m not sure if I’m going back or not," Armour said at a recent Hero’s Welcome in her home town of Chicago. "But if I’m called back, I’m ready to serve again just like I did the last two times."

Capt. Armour’s list of accomplishments has also included one-time cop, & a pro-football player. But now she can also add inductee into The Museum of African-American Military History.

Flying a super cobra attack helicopter, her job is one of the most essential and most dangerous in Iraq. Her father, a retired army major, talked about his reaction after hearing her story about escorting a MedEVac chopper with another super cobra.

"They left out together, but the other one didn’t come back, and she had bullets riddling her aircraft" said Maj. Gaston Armour. "I knew that was going on, but just to hear her say that, it sent chills up my spine."

Capt. Armour acknowledged her dad’s worry.

"I probably put every gray hair in my dad’s head from getting my motorcycle, to being a cop, to wanting to be in the military," she said. "But not just in the military – but being an attack helicopter pilot."

While accepting her honor, Armour wanted to remember those she left behind.

"Please, please don’t forget about the troops who are in Iraq and Afghanistan," she said. "They cannot be forgotten."

As a child, Capt. Armour wanted to be a bodybuilder. She twice won the title of Camp Pendleton’s Strongest Woman, and she played football for the San Diego Sunfire in a woman’s professional league.

She also sailed through Officer Candidate School and went on to graduate at the top of her class in Flight School. In March 2002, she became the military’s first African-American female combat helicopter pilot. "I was so proud, just overwhelmed," her mother, Authurine, told the Oprah TV show.

Now, she hopes her story of breaking barriers can inspire others.

During her recent visit to Chicago, Capt. Armour visited Illinois’ impoverished Pembroke Township and told the kids there that no one can limit their aspirations or accomplishments.

"I realize that I’m a role model, and there’s more pressure with that because I do want to set the right example for young people out there, whether they are a boy or a girl, or whether they are black or white … I do want to be that role model. I relish it," Armour has also recently said in a Camp Pendleton publication.

This outstanding Corps pilot has a strong message for our young people, one that adults should also heed. "If you do what average people do, you have what average people have. I don’t ever want to be average. That’s what I challenge kids to do — be better than average … Don’t let anyone dash your hopes and dreams. Decide what and where you want to be and take positive steps to get there. Research what it is you want to do, take an interest in it and go for it. Work hard to keep your dreams alive."

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