The woman you will meet in this video dreamed about being a pilot from the time she was about 5 years old. She remembers seeing a television show with airplanes flying through the clouds, and she knew that was what she wanted to do. At age 13 she decided that she wanted to be a military pilot, but that dream was an impossibility at the time, as women were not yet allowed to fly combat aircraft in the military. So how does such a dream come true when it seems such an impossibility?
Luckily, for Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen, she had a dad who understood her dream and supported her in it in a very interesting way. He introduced his then 13-year-old daughter to the history of Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) of WWII.
The WASPs were established during WWII to be trained to fly every aircraft, combat and otherwise, that the U.S. Army Air Corps had in its arsenal during WWII. Though 25,000 women applied for the job, in the end only 1,100 were chosen to make up the WASPs. These women logged over 60 million miles in the air during WWII. They did everything from ferrying aircraft from manufacturers to departure points to towing targets for aerial and ground-to-air gunnery practice. They made test and demonstration flights and also served as flight instructors, training the men who would eventually go into combat as U.S. Army Air Force pilots.
Jensen never forgot this, and when she eventually joined the Air Force to became a pilot herself, she tells a wonderful story about driving down to flight school in Del Rio, TX. On the way there, she made a small side trip to Adventure Field in Sweetwater, TX, where those WASPs went through their flight training back in WWII. The tradition was that there was a wishing well there that the women would toss pennies into before they flew their first solo flights. Jensen tossed a penny into that well too, and, as she says, “I think it worked out pretty well for me.”
Jensen has never lost sight of the effect the WASPs had on her. She recently had an opportunity to fly a restored WWII Stearmans plane that the WASPs trained to fly in 70 years ago. The sense of history and of the connection between herself and those courageous women is very clear.
Lt. Col. Jensen eventually became the military pilot she had dreamed of being from the age of 13. She became the first female pilot to be qualified to fly T-7A Red Hawk fighters. She has flown over 3,000 hours in the Air Force, with 200 of those hours being in combat. She is currently flying the right wing in formation as Thunderbird number 3 with the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.
Lt. Col. Jensen is a great example of how a dream can be turned into a reality. Her story here also gives us an opportunity to look at the history of how women’s roles in the military have evolved. It is clear that Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen is among the best of the best the Air Force has to offer. We thank her for her service, her determination, and her demonstrated skills.
If you happen to be lucky enough to see the Thunderbirds in the near future, remember that the number 3 Thunderbird on the right side of the formation is flown by Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen.Whizzco