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For female Blue Angels, the sky’s the limit

Blue Angels C-130 pilot Marine Capt. Katie Higgins poses with Marine Maj. Mark Hamilton.

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron the Blue Angels
performed at the Marine Corps Station Miramar airshow Oct. 2-4, where
Marine Corps pilot Capt. Katie Higgins flew the Hercules C-130 cargo
plane affectionately known as “Fat Albert.”

“I didn’t know there was a woman on the Blue Angels but I think it’s
very inspirational,” said air show visitor Heather Troli, 20. “It shows
that women can do anything they want to do especially in a field that
has mainly been predominantly men.”

Many people, like Troli, are pleasantly surprised to learn there’s a
woman pilot on the team. They’re even more pleasantly surprised when
they learn that women have been working behind the scenes of the Blue
Angels team for nearly 50 years.

“We currently have 20 women on our team and we’ve had women serving as
part of the [70 member] team since the late 1960s,” said Aviation
Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Coralice Cochrane.

Of those 20 women, eight were born in countries outside of the Unites
States. Cochrane was born and raised in Puerto Rico and believes such
diversity helps the team connect with air show audiences.

“When we get to go to different show sites there are people from
countries all over the world and when they can see someone that they can
relate to they’re excited,” Cochrane said. “They want to be a part of
the Navy just because they see someone from whatever country they’re
from being successful in the Navy.”

There are unlimited opportunities for women to be successful on a
variety of platforms in the Navy. Joining the Blue Angels is no
different.

“I’d never heard of the Blue Angels until I joined the Navy,” said
Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Yvonne Dumas, of Columbus,
Ohio. “When I heard about the team and thought about applying, there was
this little bit of anxiety like, ‘Would I be good enough? Do they think
I’m good enough?’ Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I
would be doing this.”

Cochrane explained that men and women have equal odds of being chosen to join the team.

“They select people from the fleet so you put in a package and then you
[might] get the chance to come in and interview for a week,” Cochran
said. “You work with the team and see if you‘re a good fit. Then they
make selections based on your experience and your ability to perform.”

Once selected, new team members attend a 90-day training where along
with getting to know everyone they are cross-trained in the majority of
their rates. Team members typically learn things like how to and do
aircraft turns, service engines and hydraulics, break ride and maintain
aircraft.

“As a woman it’s just something new, something challenging and there are
so few of us that I would love to see the amount of women on the team
grow,” said Dumas. “But male, female, it doesn’t matter. If you’re in
the fleet and you get the opportunity to apply please do. I guarantee
you will not regret it. This has been the best tour of my career so
far.”

An estimated 700,000 plus people came out to watch the airshow, which
along with the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron the Blue Angels,
included demonstrations by a number of civilians air crews and
performances. Other military demonstration teams such as the U.S. Army
Parachute Team, the Golden Knights also performed.

The show also featured dozens of static displays of aircraft, artillery,
vehicles and vessels, as well as booths that showcased local units,
their specialties and recruiters. To learn more about the Blue Angels
visit their website at: https://www.blueangels.navy.mil/

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