By Kendra Johnson

WASHINGTON – Positive thinking will always get you somewhere.

Vernice Armour, the first African-American female combat pilot, knows this first-hand. Remaining positive through any obstacle or task has made Armour who she is today – determined and successful.

Armour encourages others to think this way too.

After not having enough money for college, after her parents didn’t approve of her decision to join the Marine Corps, and even after facing two deployments to Iraq , Armour was still positive.

Now a professional speaker, Armour often tells her audience about developing a “zero-to-breakthrough mentality.”

How do you do this?

“Acknowledge your obstacles. Don’t give them power,” Armour told a group of high school students in the Urban Journalism Workshop during a recent news conference.

Armour recalled doing just that in two instances in her life. While in college she did not have much money. Unlike many others in this situation, her spirits weren’t dampened. Armour continued to focus on her dreams.

“Money is not the decision-maker,” Armour said, adding that those who want to go to school can go if they find and use the tools they need to help them get through.

It’s advice that she has had to draw on from time to time.

Like her second deployment to Iraq when she said that she felt hopeless, alone and isolated.

It was a scorching 120-degree day in Iraq . But while walking back to one of the tents she stopped in her tracks, looked at the landscape and took a really deep breath in the hot, searing air. At that moment, she said her mentality changed.

“I’ll cherish every second no matter what because these are seconds I will never get back,” Armour said.

It marked one of the few times that Armour was close to giving an obstacle power. But she turned her negative into a positive – something she teaches in her lectures today – a “breakthrough mentality for a breakthrough life.”


Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists is an organization of Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals and student journalists in the D.C., metro area. WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession.