First Women of U.S. Coast Guard Aviation

From Women in Aviation International

First Women of U.S. Coast Guard Aviation are inducted to the 2019 Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame at the 30th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference in Long Beach, California, on March 16, 2019.

BIOGRAPHIES OF THE COAST GUARD’S FIRST FEMALE AVIATORS

Janna Lambine

Janna Lambine, the daughter of a retired Navy Commander, was raised in East Walpole, Massachusetts. She graduated from Bates College (Lewiston, Maine) in 1973 with a degree in Geology. Janna applied for flight training while attending Officer Candidate School, and upon graduation (December 1975) she began her flight training in January 1976. Janna received her wings at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida on 4 March 1977 (Coast Guard Aviator # 1812) and received her designation as a Coast Guard HH-3F helicopter pilot on 6 May 1977; making her the first female aviator, the first female helicopter pilot, and the first female HH-3 helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard. Her first aviation duty assignment was at Air Station Astoria, Oregon. Janna was released from Active Duty in January 1981 and began her Reserve career at the Marine Safety Office in Portland, Oregon and later became the Reserve Commanding Officer of Station Newport, Oregon. She also served in a “temporary active duty” status as part of the Pacific Area staff on Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California. Janna used her GI Bill to get her MBA from Portland State University and worked for the American Red Cross Pacific Northwest Blood Services as the Assistant Administrator. Janna moved back to the east coast in 1990 and continued her Reserve duty with the Coast Guard Intelligence unit on Governor’s Island, New York and later at the Integrated Support Command in Boston, Massachusetts. She was re-called to Active Duty during Operation Desert Storm and served on Governor’s Island for six months during and after the war. Her other Reserve duty assignments included Project Officer for OPSAIL Boston in 1992, Liaison to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and Project Officer for the transition of Marine Safety Office and Support Center Boston into the Coast Guard’s Integrated Support Center Boston. Janna retired from the Reserves in 2000 as a Commander. In her civilian life she was a trainer and exercise instructor for 18 years in Massachusetts. She currently enjoys life on Cape Cod sailing, kayaking, clamming, and walking the beaches.

Vivien Crea

Vivien Crea was an “Army brat” who grew up on the east coast and overseas. She graduated from the University of Texas (Austin) with a degree in Biology in 1972 and completed Officer Candidate School in 1973. She was assigned to the Marine Environmental Protection division at Coast Guard Headquarters before receiving orders to flight training in 1975. Vivien received her wings as the second female aviator and the first female fixed-wing aviator for the Coast Guard on 29 April 1977 (Coast Guard Aviator # 1820). After five months at the US Air Force Navigation School, she completed C-130 training in Little Rock, Arkansas and became the first female to fly the HC-130 in the Coast Guard. Her first aviation duty assignment was at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. Vivien’s career saw many additional ‘first female’ accomplishments and she rose all the way through the ranks to become the first female Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. Vice Admiral Vivien Crea retired on 7 August 2009.

(NOTE: VADM Vivien Crea was inducted into the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2010. Her bio from the WAI PHOF webpage reads: “Vice Admiral Vivien Crea is the most senior ranking woman in the history of the Coast Guard whose career consisted of the following firsts: first female Aircraft Commander; first female Military Aide to the President; first female to Command a Coast Guard Air Station; first female Executive Assistant to the Commandant of the Coast Guard; first female selected as Rear Admiral; first female appointed as Vice Admiral; first female of any Military Service to be appointed as Second in Command of the military force; and first female to be awarded the Coast Guard’s Ancient Albatross honors, as the aviator on active duty who has held that designation for the longest time.”)

Coleen Cain

Originally from Burlington, Iowa, Colleen Cain graduated from the University of California in Santa Clara in 1974. She completed Officer Candidate School in 1976, and keenly interested in being selected for flight training she obtained her Private Pilot’s License on her own time and at her own expense in 1977. In 1978 her dream of flying in the Coast Guard was realized when she began her military flight training. Colleen received her wings on 8 June 1979 (Coast Guard Aviator # 1988) and became the Coast Guard’s third female aviator, and the first female HH-52 helicopter pilot. Her first duty assignment was Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. Colleen progressed through Co-Pilot, First Pilot, and Aircraft Commander training while at Air Station Barbers Point. In 1978 Colleen was awarded the Coast Guard’s Achievement Medal for resuscitating a three-year-old boy who had been pulled from the water after a boating accident. In the early morning hours on 7 January 1982 and in torrential rain, heavy winds, and near-zero visibility, Colleen and two other crewmembers launched at 4 AM on a Search and Rescue mission and made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation “so that others may live” when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in the Wailau Valley (on the north shore of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands) while responding to a distress call from a 74-foot fishing vessel in danger of sinking with seven persons on board. At the age of 29, Colleen Cain became the Coast Guard’s first female aviator to die in the line of duty. In 1985 the 100-room residence hall at the Coast Guard Reserve Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia was named “Cain Hall” in her honor.

AIRCRAFT MECHANICS & AIRCREW

In the Coast Guard, all of our “fixers” (mechanics) are also our “fliers” (aircrewmen), and all aviation rated personnel are required to qualify for an aircrew position when they begin their first operational tour of duty following their graduation from their respective “A-School” (apprentice/entry level training program). The following six women are the FIRST women to graduate from an Aviation Technical Training Center “A-School” and begin performing maintenance on aircraft (both fixed-wing and rotary-wing) and fly on operational missions for the Coast Guard. They ventured where no women had gone before, proved that women were capable of performance equal to that of their male peers and could be successfully assimilated in the Coast Guard in “non-traditional roles”. These six women proved that women were technically capable of joining the aviation workforce, enabling scores of women to serve in these aviation ratings by following in their pioneering footsteps.

In 1998, the Coast Guard restructured the aviation maintenance workforce from five individual technical ratings into three (combined skills) technical ratings. Another fine-tuning of the workforce took place in 2003, with one of the technical ratings being redefined. Today, the original aviation ratings held by these six women have been combined into three aviation ratings as described below, and will give you an idea of the work these pioneering women did while serving in the Coast Guard:

Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) which combined the technical skills of the previous AD and AM ratings (and some AE skills) together into one new rating in the late 1990s. This rating is responsible for the inspection, servicing, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repairs on aircraft powerplants, powertrains, and structural systems. Technical skills also include maintaining metal, composite, and fiberglass materials; fabricating cables, wire harnesses, structural components; performing corrosion control, non-destructive testing; basic electrical troubleshooting; and record keeping. Additionally, all AMTs are required to hold an aircrew position in a specific Coast Guard aircraft.

Avionics Technician (AVT) was created in the 1998 restructuring but was changed to Avionics Electrical Technician (AET) in 2003 when the AMT rating exchanged some of the electrical system responsibilities with the AVT rating prompting the formation of the ‘redefined’ AET rating. This rating combined the technical skills of the previous AE and AT ratings (and re-acquired some skills from the AMT rating). This rating is responsible for the inspection, servicing, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repairs of aircraft power, communications, navigation, auto flight, and sensor systems. Technical skills include fabricating cables, wire harnesses, basic electrical troubleshooting, as well as performing minimum performance checks, system alignments, avionics corrosion control, and record keeping. Additionally, all AETs are required to hold an aircrew position in a specific Coast Guard aircraft.

Aviation Survival Technician (AST) now replaces the previous rating of ASM. This rating is responsible for the inspection, servicing, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repairs of aircraft and aircrew survival equipment and rescue devices. Additionally, all ASTs perform the duties of a Rescue Swimmer as their aircrew position, are all qualified EMTs, and provide aircrew survival training to all Coast Guard aviators.

Robyn Rogers

Robyn grew up in Bay Minette, Alabama and enlisted in 1974. As a Seaman Apprentice her first assignment was to a Communications Station (COMMSTA) as a deck hand. While at the COMMSTA, she learned that the ban on women had been lifted and she could pursue her dream to become a helicopter mechanic. Robyn graduated from AD A-School on 5 August 1977, the first female AD in the Coast Guard and the only female in a class of 18. Her first operational duty assignment in aviation was at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, where she worked on the HH-3 helicopters. She then moved on to Air Station San Francisco, California in 1979 where she worked on the HH-52 helicopters. She also added to her skills by becoming a qualified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). In 1980, Robyn transferred back to Air Station Kodiak and with her proficiency as a HH-52 mechanic and aircrew, she became the first woman assigned to the Aviation Detachment in support of Coast Guard Cutters patrolling the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. In 1982, she transferred to Air Station New Orleans, Alabama and again worked on the HH-52 helicopter. Although on the list to advance to AD1 (E-6), Robyn decided not to reenlist and left the Coast Guard’s service in 1982. Robyn continued to follow her passion and work in aviation maintenance, first with Aerospatiale Helicopters and later in the Overhaul Division of American Airlines where she also served as an EMT for the Emergency Medical Services Authority in Tulsa, OK. After 5 years with American Airlines, she moved back to Alaska and worked for ERA Helicopters for 6 years before deciding to open her own motorcycle shop, where she would eventually meet her husband T. C. Norvell. After 3 years as the sole proprietor of the RNR Motorcycle Shop, she closed the business and moved to Soldotna, Alaska with her husband, where they reside today.

(NOTE: Robyn’s maiden name is Rogers; before becoming Robyn Norvell, she was previously married while in the Coast Guard and known as Robyn Bregante)
ANDREA GARDNER: Andrea enlisted in the Coast Guard on 1 March 1976, a week after her 18th birthday from Grand Junction, Colorado with the hopes of becoming a Marine Science Technician or Quartermaster. Half way through boot camp she learned that aside from Boatswains Mate, the seagoing rates were unavailable to women. Coming from a line of mechanics, having worked on cars with her brother and enjoyed flying with a friend, she jumped at an opening for Aviation Structural Mechanic (AM) A-School that presented itself at the end of boot camp. She attended the Navy’s AMH and AMS classes at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Millington, Tennessee; completing the training on 28 September 1976 and becoming the first female AM in the Coast Guard. Andrea’s first operational duty assignment in aviation was at Air Station Traverse City, Michigan. In 1977 while at the Air Station, she was sent to the “C-School” (journeyman/advanced level training program) for the Grumman HU-16E Albatross fixed-wing aircraft at the Coast Guard’s Aircraft Repair and Supply Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. After leaving the Coast Guard in 1978, Andrea at points was married/divorced, raised two children, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts in 1987 from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Andrea also worked as a manager for a Natural Food Store on/off for 10 years and served for 13 years in various roles in the fiscal departments at Veteran’s Hospitals in Colorado, Maine, and Oregon. After her children were grown, she went to graduate school for social work, graduating from the University of New England in Portland, Maine in 2012. She moved to Portland, Oregon and volunteered on crisis lines and accepted a position with Lines for Life in 2013 as a Military Crisis Intervention Specialist. Lines for Life eventually became the only backup center for the Veterans Crisis Line. Andrea became a Masters Crisis Intervention Specialist, answering multiple county, agency, and hospital crisis lines, as well as filling occasional supervisory shifts on the Oregon Youthline, which was a peer-to-peer crisis and support line. Andrea completed licensing requirements for clinical social work while there and received her LCSW for the State of Oregon in January 2018.

(NOTE: Prior to 1980, when all of the Coast Guard’s aviation “A-Schools” were consolidated at the Coast Guard’s Aviation Technical Training Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the AM and AE A-Schools were taught at one of the Naval Air Technical Training Centers.)

Erminia Chillon

Minnie enlisted in the Coast Guard on 23 May 1976. When she took her aptitude test at the Newark, New Jersey recruiting station she qualified for several schools and chose to be an Aviation Electricians Mate (AE). While in basic training she was the only female in her company and was asked to take another aptitude test; she again scored high enough to qualify for several schools and even though there were no women in the AE rating, she was not discouraged and looked forward to the challenge. She graduated as a Seaman Apprentice and was sent to Governor’s Island (GI), New York where she performed duties as a Yeoman and worked in the Operations office that maintained the schedules and maintenance for the Coast Guard ferry’s that transited to/from GI and lower Manhattan. Minnie received her orders to AE A-School in 1977 and reported to the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Millington, Tennessee. Minnie was the only female in the class but having grown up with older brothers she knew she could do whatever her male classmates could do. Minnie completed the training in February 1978 and became the first female AE in the Coast Guard. Her first operational duty assignment in aviation was at Air Station Brooklyn, New York, where she worked on the HH-52A single turbine amphibious helicopter; again, as the only female aviation mechanic and aircrew. One of her memories of becoming the first female flight aircrewman was that the dry suits required for the over-water search and rescue missions were all made for males and not females, so they did not fit her until the Commanding Officer decided to send her to the manufacturer to be fitted in person. Minnie had many fond memories while in the Coast Guard, to include being stationed on GI at the same time that her cousin Kenny (who convinced her to join the Coast Guard) was also stationed on GI. Minnie also had the opportunity to be with her cousin Delores (Kenny’s sister) in Millington, Tennessee who was in the Navy and stationed at the Naval Air Training Center. After four years of dedicated service, Minnie decided to conclude her service career and was Honorably Discharged in August 1980. She currently works for L’Oreal USA Inc.

Elizabeth Uhrig

Betty applied to the Coast Guard Academy in 1976, but when she wasn’t selected she decided to enlist for four years. She graduated from the Aviation Electronics Technician (AT) A-School on 31 March 1978 as the first female AT in the Coast Guard, where she was the only female in a class of 15. Her first operational aviation assignment was at Air Station San Francisco, California where she became qualified as a Radioman and a Navigator on C-130 and HU-16 fixed-wing aircraft. With a desire to still attend the Academy, she attended the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection Training (BOOST) at the Naval Base in San Diego, California in 1978. After achieving the rank of E-5 she was ultimately accepted to the Coast Guard Academy, graduating in 1984 with a degree in Ocean Engineering. Her first tour after graduation was on the Coast Guard Cutter COURAGEEOUS as a Student Engineering Officer. Having found the love of flight while enlisted, she applied for and was chosen to attend flight school. Betty winged on 31 August 1985 (Coast Guard Aviator # 2415) and was sent to her first flying tour at Air Station Clearwater, Florida where she worked her way through the upgrade syllabi (Co-Pilot, First Pilot, Aircraft Commander) to become an Instructor Pilot. Following a subsequent tour at Air Station Sacramento, California, she did a staff tour as the Pacific Area Aviation Liaison. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), she became the Executive Officer at Air Station Washington, District of Columbia, flying the Gulfstream III for the Coast Guard Commandant. After 20 distinguished years of service, Betty retired in 2000. Betty was immediately hired as the first female pilot by Chevron Corporation, flying Gulfstreams for their executive leadership. She again moved quickly from line pilot to Captain to Chief Pilot. In 2009 Betty became the General Manager overseeing all of Chevron’s 120+ world-wide airplane/helicopter fleet. Betty retired from Chevron in 2017, having been to 109 countries in two fulfilling careers.

Dior Lowen

Dior signed up in the delayed enlistment program in November 1973 and was sworn into the Coast Guard by her father (AE Master Chief Darryl Lowen) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in February 1974. After graduating from boot camp as a Seaman Apprentice she was transferred to the Coast Guard Washington Radio Station in Alexandria, Virginia, and was assigned to the Coast Guard’s Honor Guard. After spending a year in the Honor Guard, Dior was notified by her father that the ban on women in aviation had been lifted and she could now pursue her dream of working in an aviation career field. She excitedly called that very day to apply for aviation technical training. She was accepted into Aviation Survivalman (ASM) A-School and graduated in April 1976, becoming the first female ASM in the Coast Guard. Dior’s first aviation duty assignment was at Air Station St. Petersburg, Florida, where she was the only female in the aviation group. Dior received her ‘wings’ on 2 October 1977 when she qualified as a Flight Mechanic on the HH-3 helicopter. Dior also earned her EMT qualification. In 1977, Dior married AT3 Kerry Hendricks, and left the Coast Guard in 1978 to give birth to their daughter Morgan. In 1983, the family moved to Titusville, Florida to pursue a job opportunity for both parents at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). In 1984, Dior was hired by Martin Marietta at KSC and became a Senior Solid Rocket Booster Deceleration Technician, where she refurbished and packed the Booster Parachutes for the Space Shuttle Program. After working 18 months with the newly named United Space Boosters, Inc. (USBI), the Space Shuttle Columbia accident caused layoffs across KSC, and Dior was among them. She then utilized her VA Benefits to attend college. In 1987, Dior was called back to work at USBI and continued her work at the parachute facility. United Space Alliance (USA) won the contract, so Dior worked for USA packing Shuttle Drag Parachutes and flying to the Army Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona for test parachute drops for several different space programs. Dior divorced Kerry Hendricks in 1989, but still living on the water she got her Open Water Diving certification, bought a boat and lived on it for the next three years. Dior remarried in 1998 to Scott Hubel, owner of Performance Sail and Sport in Melbourne, Florida. Together they raced small performance sailboats in many local and national regattas. In 2000, they completed the grueling “Worrell 1000” mile sailboat race; the first married couple ever to complete the exhausting race. In 2001, the bought a 42-foot sailboat, and lived on it for the next ten years. In 2010, Dior retired from USA and KSC with close to 28 years of service in the Space industry. Dior and her husband now reside in Palm Bay, Florida.

Kelly Mogk (Larson)

Kelly grew up in Seattle, Washington and enlisted in the Coast Guard in August 1984. In 1986 she attended the Aviation Survivalman (ASM) A-School and became the first female to complete the Navy’s Rescue Swimmer (RS) School on 23 May 1986 to become the first female ASM/RS in the Coast Guard. Kelly’s first aviation duty assignment was at Air Station Astoria, Oregon. During her three-year tour at Air Station Astoria, she qualified as a Rescue Swimmer in both the HH-3 and HH-52 helicopters. One of Kelly’s most memorable rescues occurred in January 1989 when she exposed herself to hypothermic elements to free a downed Air National Guard F-4 pilot from his parachute and remained in the water for a back-up helicopter to recover her from the water while the first helicopter departed in order to expedite transport of the pilot to medical care. She earned an Air Medal and the in-person congratulations of then President George H. W. Bush for her heroic actions. She continued her enlisted career at Air Station Sitka, Alaska between 1989-1992 before attending Officer Candidate School in 1993 and receiving her officer commission in February 1994. Remaining in an aviation career, she completed Naval Flight Training in Pensacola, Florida and winged on 3 May 1996 (Coast Guard Aviator # 3278). Kelly transitioned into the Coast Guard’s HH-65 helicopter, and as an HH-65 pilot her operational flying tours included Air Station Humboldt Bay, California, Air Station Port Angeles, Washington, and the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama where she supported the Coast Guard’s Polar Operations mission aboard Coast Guard Icebreakers and served as an Instructor Pilot. Before retiring from Active Duty in 2010, Kelly served as the Coast Guard District Thirteen Command Center Chief. After retirement, she continues to support Coast Guard operations in her role as a civilian, working as an Operations Unit Controller in the Coast Guard District Thirteen Command Center. She facilitates the allocation of resources, provides operational planning direction and oversight to multi-mission Coast Guard small boats, cutters, and aircraft within the diverse Pacific Northwest operating area (spanning 4 states, the US/Canada international border, and 3rd largest Naval fleet) and coordinates unified response efforts with foreign Rescue Coordination Centers and Department of Defense partners.

(NOTE: Kelly’s maiden name is Mogk. She married while in the Coast Guard and retired as Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Kelly M. Larson in 2010.)

Read more about the the 2019 inductees to the International Pioneer Hall of Fame

Read more in Coast Guard Compass about the enlisted women  and officers.