Air Education and Training Command hosted a fly-in event in Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 18-21, bringing together a small group of Air Force aviators ranging from fighter to cargo pilots, boom operators, and loadmasters to special aviation operators.
The AETC Women’s Fly-In event recognized, valued, and leveraged the differences and similarities which make the Air Force better and stronger–a diversity that is necessary to become a more lethal force.
Before the event the Air Force Capt. Melaine Valentin, a T-38C instructor pilot from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, was asked to design a morale patch for Air Education and Training Command’s 2019 Women’s Fly-In.
Since the event, the patch’s popularity has grown so much that the company she worked with to get it manufactured now sells it on its website.
The patch, which depicts a female aviator in a helmet and mask along with the slogan “Fly Like a Girl,” was a great complement to the event’s focus on uniting USAF aviators from a variety of Air Force Specialty Codes to network with one another, assist the service with fitting gear to female proportions, and serving as aviation ambassadors to the next generation of would-be women aviators.
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“Everyone’s always heard … the phrase, you ‘throw like a girl’ or like that kind of off-the-cuff response, and I thought it would be cool to kind of take that back,” she recalled of the patch’s origin story during a March 11 interview with Air Force Magazine. “And yeah, I fly like a girl—I’m awesome. …. so kind of just a fun patch that kind of conveyed … ‘I am a female aviator, and I love it,’ and kind of being proud of that whole idea.”
Her initial designs were drawings on paper, but she’s since begun drafting designs on “an iPad, so it’s a little bit easier of a digital medium to pass” the renderings onto would-be manufacturers.
“The Air Force needs people who think, like every different way possible, right?” she said. “… A more diverse force makes us a much more lethal force, so we need people who are more artistic than others, and we need people who are more analytical, and we need people who see the world in different ways. And so the Air Force needs every single one of those people.”