by Barbara Garwood
The Women In Aviation International Conference is fast approaching in Nashville! One of the educational sessions is sponsored by Woman Military Aviators and will feature a panel of five women pilots who have served in combat. The panel will be moderated by Barbara Garwood (Captain American Airlines, Retired) and Peggy Carnahan (Captain, NetJets) both former USAF pilots.
One member of the panel is Lt. Col. (USMC) Alison “Rocky” Thompson, a 1994 graduate of the US Naval Academy, who became a Naval Aviator in the CH-53E helicopter in 1997. Her first unit was HMH-464 (Marine Heavy Helicopter) and she became an Air Mission Commander, Functional Check Pilot and Weapons and Tactics Instructor. In 2000, she deployed with her unit to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, joining a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
Two of her deployments later were with the HMM-365 (Marine Medium Helicopter unit) and the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit. These missions included humanitarian operations in Albania, earthquake relief in Turkey, and the combat entry force into Kosovo.
In the photo above, Lt. Col. Alison Thompson is standing beside a CH-53E Super Stallion. The day after 9-11, then Captain Thompson was tasked to fly to New York City in the CH-53E to provide support where needed in the aftermath of the Towers’ destruction. As all aircraft in the US were grounded after the attack, that mission was cancelled.
But just a few months later, Thompson was now piloting the CH-53E in Afghanistan, deploying the Marines who took Camp Rhino and Kandahar Air Field, and then invaded the Tora Bora mountains. This woman aviator has seen combat and will share some of her experiences with the audience.
Lt. Col. Thompson is one of the first women to pilot a Marine aircraft and the first woman to command a Marine squadron in combat. Her many awards include a Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards), Individual Air Medal and Strike/Flight with number 10, Navy Commendation Medal (2 awards), Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
The photo above is Thompson and her officers at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in 2012.