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Air Force graduates first female enlisted pilot

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Courtney poses
for a photo before the 558th Flying Training Squadron's Undergraduate
Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Course graduation August 4, 2017, at
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Tech. Sgt. Courtney is the
first-ever enlisted female to qualify as an RPA pilot. Name badges were
blurred due to Air Force limits on disclosure of identifying information for
RPA operators. (U.S. Air Force Illustration by Tech. Sgt. Ave I. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Courtney poses for a photo before the 558th Flying Training Squadron's Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Course graduation Aug. 4, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Courtney is the first-ever enlisted female to qualify as an RPA pilot. Name badges were blurred due to Air Force limits on disclosure of identifying information for RPA operators. (U.S. Air Force Illustration/Tech. Sgt. Ave I. Young)

: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Courtney, has her
remotely piloted aircraft pilot wings pinned on by her sons David and Riley
during the 558th Flying Training Squadron's Undergraduate Remotely Piloted
Aircraft Training Course graduation August 4, 2017, at Joint Base San
Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Tech. Sgt. Courtney is the first-ever enlisted
female to qualify as an RPA pilot. Name badges were blurred due to Air Force
limits on disclosure of identifying information for RPA operators. (U.S. Air
Force Illustration by Tech. Sgt. Ave I. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Courtney has her remotely piloted aircraft pilot wings pinned on by her sons David and Riley during the 558th Flying Training Squadron's Undergraduate RPA Training Course graduation Aug. 4, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Courtney is the first-ever enlisted female to qualify as an RPA pilot. Name badges were blurred due to Air Force limits on disclosure of identifying information for RPA operators. (U.S. Air Force Illustration/Tech. Sgt. Ave I. Young)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) --

The Air Force’s first female enlisted pilot completed Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Aug. 4, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

Tech. Sgt. Courtney is part of the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class.

In its 70 years as a separate military service the Air Force has relied almost exclusively on commissioned officers to pilot its aircraft. In December 2015, the Air Force announced it would begin including enlisted Airmen in its training to pilot RPAs. Twelve were selected and incorporated in the training program beginning October 2016. The first three EPIC students graduated from training May 5, 2017.

“Tech. Sgt. Courtney doesn’t do this because she’s a girl, she just gets up every day and puts her uniform on and comes to work and kicks butt because that’s what she does,” said Maj. Natalie, an instructor pilot with the 558th Flying Training Squadron. “That’s who she is. She’s not a woman pilot, she’s a pilot.”

The 558th FTRS is the sole source of undergraduate RPA training in the Air Force.

“It’s great to fill that role as the first female,” Courtney said. “It’s awesome and humbling, but our units don’t care if you’re male or female, they just want you to be a good pilot.”

In her 11-year career, the Vacaville, California native has been a part of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance career field filling various roles such as imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft training is six months for RPA pilots, who sit in the left seat of an RPA control center during flight, and six weeks for their sensor operators, who sit in the right seat and control cameras mounted on the RPA.

This accomplishment expands Courtney’s opportunities.

“I’ve been sitting in the right seat for a long time, so now I’m ready to sit in the left seat,” Courtney said.

(Editor’s note: Only first names of the pilots were given because the Air Force limits disclosure of identifying information to first names for all RPA pilots and sensor operators throughout their careers.)