In 1971, Kathy La Sauce went from wearing mini-skirts and high boots, to “granny shoes and a really funky long skirt dress uniform”. She joined the Air Force after graduating from Ithaca college in upstate New York, embarking on the journey of a lifetime. Shortly after joining, La Sauce became one of the first women chosen for training to become an aircraft maintenance officer. It was one of many “firsts” for the trailblazer over her impressive twenty year career in the Air Force.
In July of 1976, she and nine other women made history as the first class of women chosen to be trained as Air Force pilots. La Sauce became the first female aircraft commander at Norton Air Force Base, flying missions all over the world — from Hawaii, Guam, and Japan, to Australia, New Zealand and Europe. She was also the first woman to fly a C-141 Starlifter, the first female officer to fly training aircraft, and serve as a wing flight simulator instructor and flight examiner pilot. She closed out her flying career by breaking yet another barrier, becoming the first woman in a very prestigious group - flying presidential support missions on the VC-135 aircraft for the 89th Airlift Wing.
Her presidential flight jacket from the squadron is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Her flying career was cut short when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but she managed to break one more barrier, becoming the first female commander of an Aerial Port Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base before retiring in 1992.
La Sauce and the other members of her Undergraduate Pilot Training class were inducted into the Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2016.
“I’ve never really felt special, but I always felt that I had a mission or a purpose that it was my responsibility not to be a good pilot, but to be the best pilot.”
La Sauce gets emotional reflecting on the significance of Veterans Day.
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