| 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
MPR News Article: 65 years later, female WWII test pilots finally recognized
MPR Video: WWII test pilot Elizabeth Strohfus, one of the few WASPs
Minnesota Guardsman recognized for cultural influence and leadership
Posted: 2016-05-19 09:08 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - For his work to promote diversity and build community relationships, Minnesota National Guard Warrant Officer Candidate Alan Lee received the Federal Asian Pacific American Council's Military Meritorious Service Award in Orlando, Fla., May 10, 2016. He was also recognized with a resolution in the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives, May 18.
"To be selected as one out of 12 in the entire nation, I'm really honored," said Lee. "I'm still speechless about it, but I'm truly humbled for it. I don't even believe that I'm deserving of it, I just feel like I'm doing something for the community and for the National Guard."
Lee, whose parents were sponsored to come to America in 1980 as Laotian refugees in Thailand, was born in California and moved to Minnesota in 1990 to be with the rest of his large, extended family. Growing up, Lee heard stories about his grandfather and uncle serving in the Vietnam War which motivated him to want to serve as well. He enlisted at the age of 17 when he was a junior in high school.
Minnesota National Guard aviators respond to wildfires in northern Minnesota
Posted: 2016-05-18 09:21 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Helicopter crews of the Minnesota National Guard joined firefighters May 6-9, 2016, in northern Minnesota to battle wildfires.
In response to requests made by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Governor Mark Dayton authorized the use of four UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and support personnel to assist in suppression of wildfires across the Iron Range in northern Minnesota.
"Our mission was to provide aviation support to the wildfire suppression missions which assisted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources," said Maj. Jeremy Degier, aviation duty officer.
Planning and Execution: Keys to a Good Deployment
Posted: 2016-05-16 10:36 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - In early April 2016, the 148th Fighter Wing deployed approximately 300 Airmen and about a dozen F-16's to Osan Air Base, Korea as part of a Theater Security Package (TSP). TSP's have been an integral part of the U.S. Pacific Air Command's force posture since 2004. TSP deployments are routine and not due to any specific threat in the region and usually last three to four months. So, what does it take to make a deployment like this happen?
"From a Logistical Readiness Squadron (LRS) perspective, I would break a deployment into two phases; planning and execution," said Maj. Darin Phillips, 148th Fighter Wing Installation Deployment Officer.
During the planning phase personnel are trained according to the deployment reporting instructions of that theater, to include medical requirements and other personal qualifications. On the cargo side, Unit Deployment Managers (UDMs) and increment monitors work to build their cargo, so load plans can be submitted to get airlift for both equipment and personnel.
133rd Airlift Wing Welcomes New Commander
Posted: 2016-05-13 10:45 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - During a change of command ceremony, April 16, 2016, at the 133rd Airlift Wing's South Hangar, Col. Daniel E. Gabrielli took charge of the 133rd Airlift Wing from the outgoing commander, Col. James T. Johnson.
The military tradition of passing the unit guidon from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander was carried out with prestige by the presiding officer, Brig. Gen. David Hamlar, Minnesota National Guard Assistant Adjutant General - Air, with the assistance of Command Chief Master Sgt. Paul Kessler. Members of the wing, past and present, as well as friends and family filled the entire hangar to witness the event and to pass on well-wishes to both men.
"To all of you who make up the collective 133rd Airlift Wing, you are the heart and soul of the machine which accomplishes the mission on a day-to-day basis," said Gabrielli during his address to the Airmen. "My challenge to you all as well as myself, is to keep our focus simple. Be the best you can be and continually ask yourself - are you as ready as you can possibly be to execute your wartime mission?"