By Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Branson, 121st Air Refueling Wing
/ Published July 13, 2018
The 121st Air Refueling Wing, Ohio dedicates one of its KC-135 Stratotankers to the Women Airforce Service Pilots in a ceremony at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio July 13, 2018. RICKENBACKER ANGB, then Lockbourne Air Force Base, was a training site for the WASP program from October 17, 1943 to January 13, 1944. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany A. Emery)
Women Airforce Service pilots Frances Green, Margaret "Peg" Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn, leave their B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft, "Pistol Packin' Mama," during ferry training at Lockbourne Army Airfield, Ohio, 1944. Air Force photo
RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio — The 121st Air Refueling Wing held a ceremony here July 13, 2018 to dedicate one of their KC-135 Stratotankers to honor the legacy of Women Air Force Service Pilots.
Lockbourne Air Force Base, which was renamed Rickenbacker AFB in 1974, was a training location for female pilots from October 17, 1943 to January 13, 1944. Thirteen females became fully qualified test pilots on B-17 Flying Fortresses. The success of the WASP program proved that women could fly any aircraft and the impact of that would resonate for years to come.
During the ceremony, Tech Sgt. Michelle Lucius, a crew chief with the 121st Maintenance Group, unveiled her KC-135 Stratotanker’s new nose art, the image of Fifinella, a female gremlin designed by Walt Disney. Fifinella was the official mascot for the WASP. Lucius said she will be honored to have the WASP represented on her assigned aircraft.
“Paraphrasing President Kennedy, he reminded us that ‘A nation reveals itself not only by the men and women it produces but also by the men and women it honors, the men and women it remembers,’” said Col. Mark Auer, commander of the 121st ARW. “So it seems all together fitting and proper that we take this opportunity, on the 75th anniversary of the WASPs' arrival at our base, to ensure their mascot, Fifinella, is back in the air as nose art on one of our aircraft, flying over the base and nation they so nobly served.”
Special guests for the ceremony included members of the Scioto Valley 99s international organization of women pilots, Lockbourne Mayor Christie Ward, representatives from the offices of Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Representatives Joyce Beatty and Steve Stivers.
Portman, Beatty and Stivers issued proclamations recognizing Rickenbacker ANGB for honoring the WASP. The proclamation from Stivers stated “I am grateful to all who have been involved with this project and for the tremendous efforts put forth to preserve an important piece of our proud tradition of military service.”