By Leslie Redmond
WASHINGTON – Vernice Armour, the first African-American female combat pilot and first female pilot in the Marine Corps, is an example of what it means to have no excuses, just solutions.
“Acknowledge the obstacles. Don’t give them power,” Armour said during a recent news conference for high school students in the Urban Journalism Workshop.
It’s a lesson she had to learn early.
Armour’s father was in the Army and her grandfather was a Montford Point Marine. Her stepfather also was a Marine.
Although she thought it would be “cool” to continue the military tradition not everyone shared that view.
Her stepfather didn’t want her to go into the Marines because he wanted her to avoid the sexism he believed she would inevitably experience.
Determined and strong-willed, Armour went against her stepfathers’ wishes.
The military caught her fascination while she was a student at Middle Tennessee State University . And that had its challenges for her too. She had trouble financially. But this obstacle didn’t stand in her way for long, either, because she applied for every aid and loan package she could until she had enough money.
She saw an ad for a free trip to Mardi Gras. But there was a catch in the fine print. She had to join the ROTC Rifle Team first.
She did and was on the path to become a Marine.
After the trip, Armour would later attend the Army ROTC Leadership Training Advanced Camp at Fort Bragg, N.C. There, she would have a life-changing experience.
“I saw an African-American woman in a flight suit. It was a powerful image. It planted a strong seed. I am the blossom of that seed today,” said Amour.
But before chasing her dream to become a pilot she took a break from school in 1996 to attend the police academy. She subsequently joined the Nashville Police Department’s motorcycle squad.
So she went to school part-time and graduated in 1997.
Two years later, Armour went to Tempe, Ariz., and joined the police force there.
Still, Armour wanted to become a combat pilot, so she joined the Marines and went to flight school where she graduated at the top of her class in July 2001.
“I was No. 4 for the jet slot so I knew I had to be No. 1 one in my class to fly Cobras,” Armour said.
She has served two tours in Iraq as a Super Cobra attack helicopter pilot and participated in the invasions of Iraq, the battle of Fallujah and the battle in Najaf.