by Jess Clackum
Captain Miranda Gahn enlisted in the Army Reserve at the age of 17. She joined the ROTC in college and was commissioned as an MP in the Ohio National Guard upon graduation during which time she was deployed in support of Operation Noble Eagle, the post 9/11 mobilization of thousands of National Guard and reservists for the purpose of performing security missions on military installations, airports and other potential targets such as bridges, power plants and port facilities.
Upon return from deployment and having decided on a career with the Judge Advocate General (JAG) office, Gahn attended Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. She'd had no intentions of becoming a pilot until her second year of law school when she was approached by an Aviation Officer with the Ohio National Guard who discussed with her the idea of branch transferring to Aviation and pursuing a military career as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. The Aviation Officer was very candid about increasing the number of women in Ohio’s aviation community. Gahn was both surprised and flattered. She says, “I was flattered at the interest and reasoned that the opportunity to fly helicopters for the Army was probably an "opportunity of a lifetime", I figured I could always pursue JAG at a later date.”
Gahn applied for flight school with the mindset that if she was accepted it was meant to be and if not, she would simply continue pursuit of her law career. In summer 2009, she graduated from law school and passed the bar exam and in January 2010 she reported to flight school.
“Flight school was challenging! Some might argue that I just completed law school, that flight school should have been a breeze, but it presented different challenges. I am a type-A personality and wanted to be really good, but aviation and aerodynamics and mechanics and systems was just not something I was naturally good at, no real aptitude for it.
In addition to overcoming material that was mostly foreign to me, I was also the most senior ranking officer in my flight school class. I attended flight school later than most students...flight school for me in my military, was sort of mid-career, I already had a primary branch, MP, while most of the students were newly commissioned and this would be their first job in the military as officers, so they were in their early to mid 20s while I was in my late 20s.
Adding the additional responsibility of being the most senior ranking officer, while being a gender minority and working through unfamiliar material and being afraid that any weakness would be attributed to my gender made for a stressful year!”
Gahn met the challenges head-on and graduated from flight school in March 2011 and since that time she has enjoyed and treasured the opportunity to fly.
“I do feel like every step of the way has been challenging, but not without its rewards. Being a commissioned officer in Army aviation also means that you are a leader first, with your primary responsibility being the care and training of the soldiers you lead, being a proficient aviator is a very close second. The unit I belong to has been good to me, but at times I have felt as though my gender, and being a minority in that regard has made me an outsider. Currently I am the only female Blackhawk pilot in the state of Ohio and am the senior ranking female in the battalion.”
Captain Gahn recently returned from a Middle East deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. She is an attorney and Business Program Manager supporting customer relations at GE Aviation, manufacturer of the T-700 engine used in the Blackhawk and Apache helicopters.
Of the WASP, Gahn says, “The women who served in the WASP, are extraordinary women, I'm deeply humbled by their bravery and inspired by their service. I am also thankful for the trail they blazed, making the seemingly impossible, possible, for so many other brave women. I'm not a role model and have never thought of myself as one, but maybe, just maybe, my story along with others might inspire other young women to burn a trail of their own, to set out to accomplish something they never thought possible...I know I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd be so lucky to fly Blackhawk helicopters for the Army!”
The FlyGirls team believes Captain Gahn is indeed a role model and we know she will inspire young women everywhere to follow in her footsteps!