| Betty Strohfus: A Tale of Love at First Flight
For Elizabeth (Betty) Strohfus, World War II pilot from Faribault, Minn, seeing the world from above had always been a great love of hers Even as a child, Betty could regularly be found climbing to discover new heights
"I would climb to the highest hill or on the roof if I didn't have anything else to climb on," Betty said
While working in the local courthouse, a man came in talking about flying Seeing her interest, he asked if she would like to accompany him on a flight
"I could get above all this beautiful world and see what God created?" she remembers thinking
"He went up 3,500 feet into a spin, turned around and looked, and I asked, "˜One more time?'" Betty said
After ten "˜one more times,' he stopped looking around Looking a little green, he landed the airplane
"He said "˜You know, whatever you do, you have to take up flying Every other person I take up flying and did a spin, they get sick You're the only one who's made me sick,'" Betty said "I had a ride in an airplane and fell in love with flying It was love at first flight"
From that point on, Betty could be found hanging around the local airport waiting to catch a ride from one of the 15 men in the Sky Club
"Of course, at that time there weren't any women in the Sky Club," Betty said "I used to go out there and do a little sweeping, and I'd just hang around because if somebody needed ballast in the backseat, I'd be it"
When one of the Sky Club members joined the United States Army Air Corps, Betty was invited to take the club vacancy The only hurdle Betty had to jump with accepting the position was that it cost $100
"I thought, "˜Gee, I've never seen $100 in one piece in all my life' I was making $50 a month," Betty said "This was in 1942, and my father had passed away My mom was trying to keep the house together, and we didn't have much money to spend"
The one purchase Betty had been able to make was a bicycle
"I had a bicycle for transportation I got out of high school in 1939, and went and bought a bicycle as soon as I got a job," Betty said "In those days we didn't have a telephone, we didn't have a car, we made our own fun When we wanted to go somewhere, we could only go as far as a bicycle would go"
Betty's bicycle took her much farther than she ever expected the day she went to the bank to ask for a loan of $100
"I said, "˜I'm going to start to fly' He said, "˜Oh, women don't fly' I said, "˜This one is going to,'" Betty recalls "He never said a word He got the papers, put my bike down for collateral, and co-signed my loan He knew we were poor, but he also knew we were honest people I got my $100 and joined the Sky Club"
Joining the 14 men, Betty fit right in as a little sister
"The fellas were so good to me In fact, it was almost embarrassing, because if I was going on a cross country [flight] they would follow me to make sure I didn't get lost," Betty said "Those years we didn't have the navigation situation like they have today We only had five instruments in our airplane"
Women Air Force Service Pilots
World War II started unexpectedly for the United States, requiring all of the experienced pilots in the military to become combat pilots The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) organization was formed, and asked women to become pilots to relieve the men on the home front 25,000 women applied, while only around 1,900 aspiring pilots were selected for the training
"I didn't even know 25,000 women had applied for it I had no idea," Betty said "I just knew I had to fly airplanes"
Betty left her home in Faribault, Minn to travel down to Sweetwater, Tex for training with her sister Mary and one other woman from her town
"When we went into the Service, we took the oath of the military, under orders at all times," Betty said "We flew the airplanes of the service, and we thought we were to be a part of the Air Force"
With the military exhausting all resources for the war efforts, the WASPs acquired recycled uniforms from the English military following their flight training in Sweetwater
"If you got to the laundry in time, you would get one that [fit] Otherwise, they would be too big We'd have to pull them up and tuck them in," Betty said "But we didn't care, we wanted to fly airplanes We didn't care what they gave us to wear"
Unlike the males' uniforms, the females required consideration for their long hair
"When we got in the airplane, our hair would flow in the back and they always felt that it would [distract] the [male instructors] in the back seat," Betty said, "so we had to wear turbans"
While the males were trained to pilot specific aircraft, the females had the opportunity to fly all the aircraft
"Being they didn't know what to do with us, we flew them all," Betty said "So we were knowledgeable about all the planes"
Being experienced with more aircraft, Betty was able to assist with other pilot's flight missions
"I was always on the flight line, because I just loved to fly I was only supposed to fly four hours a day, as well as the fellas," Betty said "After four hours, I would go back to see if someone wanted me to finish their missions"
Even though flying military missions was a great passion of Betty's, she considered leaving the Service for an offer of marriage
"I had a guy back home who came to see me," Betty said "He said, "˜Now you see that you can fly all those airplanes, now come home and get married You flew all those airplanes, and I have an airplane'"
Having a small 65 horsepower airplane, he convinced Betty to move home
"I went in to see our CEO," Betty recalls "She said, "˜If you want to resign, that is up to you, but before you sign this slip, I want you to get a flight on that AT-6'"
"I got a flight on that AT-6, I come down and called that boy [to tell him] I'm not coming home," Betty said "He said "˜if you don't come home, I'm going to marry somebody else' I said, "˜Go ahead' He did, and we both lived happily ever after"
Seeing Betty's commitment and passion for flying on a daily basis, Betty was selected to become an instructor
"I was an instrument flying instructor," Betty said "I instructed the [male] pilots before they went overseas"
Following the war, the WASPs were relieved from duty Although Betty returned home, started a family, and worked many jobs away from a cockpit, she never forgot her first love of flight
Today, Betty is a member of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, and has traveled to 24 of the United States since 1992 telling her story
A special thanks to Army Aviation Association North Star Chapter for sponsoring Betty's visit to St Paul, Minn on July 28, 2009
by Sgt Jodi Krause, Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
August 5, 2009
A birthday celebration is being held at the Elks Lodge in Faribault, MN (131 Lyndale Ave N - (507) 334-9811) on Sunday, Nov 15 from 2-4 pm
July 28, Betty Strohfus: A Tale of Love at First Flight - Low Res
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Cannoneers remember lineage during upcoming anniversary
Posted: 2016-07-20 10:13 AM
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This is part of the annual training requirements that each National Guard unit must complete in order to meet readiness standards in support of possible federal missions.
During the summer of 1917, this battalion answered such a call following the congressional approval of President Woodrow Wilson's declaration of war against Germany.
More Military Bases Join 'Sentinel Landscapes' for Readiness Enhancement
Posted: 2016-07-15 10:03 AM
WASHINGTON - Numerous military installations have joined the Sentinel Landscapes partnership to maintain military readiness while preserving local agriculture, natural resources and wildlife habitat, Defense Department officials announced today.
Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida; Camp Ripley, Minnesota; and the Eastern North Carolina region, which comprises numerous military installations, joined the cooperative partnership between DoD and the departments of Interior and Agriculture, DoD officials said.
In July 2013, the departments launched the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership through a memorandum of understanding to meet three critical goals: preserve working and agricultural lands, restore and protect wildlife habitat, and assist with military readiness. The first designees were Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Fort Huachuca in Arizona and Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, officials said.
Minnesota National Guard executes recovery mission following NTC rotation
Posted: 2016-07-15 09:08 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Soldiers and vehicles of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team 34th Infantry Division returned to Minnesota at the beginning of July after a month-long training rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.
"This is the final phase of this movement exercise, we learned a lot and exceeded every expectation with great results," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Gerard Hummel, railhead officer-in-charge.
After offloading vehicles and equipment from the railhead at Camp Ripley, Minnesota National Guard units will begin the next phase following an exercise which is the checking, servicing and maintaining of everything the unit needs to execute its next mission.
Minnesotans visit Croatia to mark 20 years of State Partnership
Posted: 2016-07-12 09:51 AM
KARLOVAC, Croatia - Former and current members of the Minnesota National Guard, Governor Mark Dayton and the St. Paul civic group "Serving Our Troops" visited Croatia to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the State Partnership Program, July 2, 2016.
During the trip Governor Dayton, the Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, and current and former Minnesota National Guard leadership visited the Dubovac Primary School in Karlovac, Croatia. The elementary school just finished being refurbished by the Croatian Army Engineering Regiment, the Minnesota Army National Guard's 851st Vertical Engineer Company, and Civil Engineer Squadron members from the 133rd Airlift Wing and the 148th Fighter Wing. The engineers worked together to build a state-of-the-art kitchen, locker room and restrooms in the aging school.
"The partnership between Minnesota and Croatia is strong, and I am very honored to be here to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our State Partnership Program," said Nash. "This simple gesture of cooperation on making sure that the future of Croatia - the nation's youth - have the necessary facilities to learn, grow and prosper is emblematic of our partnership."