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McChord Field Honor Guard honor Women's Airforce Service Pilot

Honoring the past and those who served

Members of the McChord Field Honor Guard check their hats before a recent practice. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Saturday, April 20, past and present histories intersected with precision.

During World War II, Lois Auchterlonie volunteered to serve this country as a Women's Airforce Service Pilot, or WASP.

"I just wanted to fly," the former captain said in a 2008 interview, "and if I could I would go back and do it all again."

The WASPs were created to help with the shortage of male pilots, and they ferried planes between bases and tested them to ensure there were up to flying standards.

More than 25,000 women applied to serve; fewer than 1,900 were accepted. After four months of flight training, 1,074 earned their wings, becoming the first women to fly American aircraft.

The WASPs disbanded before the end of the war, and because they were considered civilians they were denied military benefits and honors.

In 1977 WASPs were provided the benefits they had earned, and in 2010 President Obama and Congress awarded the WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal.

On March 24 Lois Maxine Dobbin Auchterlonie, a World War II hero, passed.

"We knew she was frail, and we knew of her service to America," Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Moore, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the McChord Field Honor Guard, said.

"When we learned of her passing, we wanted to honor her and what she had done."

At Auchterlonie's memorial service last Saturday afternoon, Moore led an all-female honor guard to render military honors.

Joining Moore to talk about the honors rendered to Auchterlonie were Airman 1st Class Charity Nolen, Airman 1st Class Aigerim Akhmetova, Senior Airman Brenna Reeves, Airmen 1st Class Aderwynjado Davies, Airman 1st Class Cathryn Record and Senior Airman Khanisha Rodney.

"Miss Lois was a trailblazer for us," Nolen commented. "She served this country, and we wanted to honor her."

In preparation for Auchterlonie's final military honors, the women worked hard.

"We focused on being sharp for her and her family," Akhmetova continued. 

Reeves nodded her head in agreement. "We were honored to be there and to reflect on what she did for the Air Force."

The night before the ceremony, Aderwynjado said that she laid her uniform out and checked - and then double and triple checked - to see that everything was perfect.

"This was about precision," commented Record.

"We had to be spot-on; we wanted to serve this woman and her family one last time.  We wanted to give them more."

A few moments later the women stood up and headed toward a room to practice folding the flag.

"We practice every day," Moore explained.  "We are about perfection."

As the members of the honor guard folded the flag, their movements were precise, respectful, executed as though they were at a ceremony.

"There is something to honoring tradition, and it's something people don't recognize any more," Record said moments after the practice ended. 

"If we are proud Americans, if we look our values, then honoring Miss Lois connects the dots between past and present."

Past and present histories carry on into the future with precision.

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