Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. --
As the enormous Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules flew
through the evening sky, Maj. Janine Garner’s voice came over the internal
radio as she commanded her flight crew during aerial refueling training with a
group of four F-35B Lightning aircraft belonging to Marine Aircraft Group 31, 2nd
Marine Aircraft Wing. This was just one of many flights Garner has flown since
joining the Marine Corps.
Now, stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point,
N.C as the Personnel Support Detachment 14
commanding officer with Marine Aircraft Group 14,
Garner to leads her Marines with enthusiasm.
“One day, I felt this calling to our armed forces that I
couldn’t explain,” said Garner. “I didn’t really know anyone in the military,
but I felt it was where God was guiding me. I prayed a lot about it and
realized it was where the Lord wanted me to be.
“I joined the Marine Corps because it was the military
branch I felt pulled to the most. I didn’t care what [military occupational
specialty] I received. All I cared about was being able to lead Marines.”
Garner graduated Brigham Young University in 1999. After
graduating and deciding to join the Marine Corps, the idea to become a pilot
did not occur to her until after completing Officer Candidates School aboard Marine
Corps Base Quantico.
“In the realm of things I could do, I’d never seen women do
it, so it never occurred to me that [being a pilot] was something I could
aspire to, so I came into the Marine Corps on a ground contract,” said Garner. “It
wasn’t until I got to The Basic School that I decided to compete for an
Becoming a pilot in the Marine Corps requires many months of
training. Aspiring pilots must first complete six weeks of aviation pre-flight
indoctrination at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., followed by 22 weeks of
primary flight training. After primary flight training, officers go through advanced
flight training, which can last 14 to 49 weeks for fixed-wing pilots or 27 to
44 weeks for rotary-wing pilots.
According to a study conducted by the Center for Naval
Analyses, seven percent of the Marine Corps is comprised of females, and only
four percent of those females are in the aviation field, making Garner one of
“I love it,” said Garner. “From the very first flight, I
knew this was for me. I’m certain I would have been happy no matter what I did
in the Marine Corps because leading Marines is ultimately what I wanted to do,
but by golly, flying is just awesome.”
When asked what it’s like to be a female pilot in the Marine
Corps, Garner said she is not fond of the question because it implies male and
female pilots are not the same.
“I recognize that there are very few women who fly in the
Marine Corps,” said Garner. “When you remove the gender from it, flying is
honestly one of the greatest equalizers there are. It doesn’t matter how strong
I am, how fast I can run, or how many pull ups I can do. What matters is how
well I hit the books, prepare for my flights, and act professionally towards my
“You have to be a consummate professional in an aircraft
because the lives of your crew members depend on that. So being a female pilot
is wonderful in that, once you get into the plane, gender has absolutely
nothing to do with it.”
Garner also said when it comes to leading her Marines, she
tries to approach everything genuinely.
“I try to lead by example but I also recognize that I am not
perfect,” said Garner. “My job as the commanding officer isn’t to run around
and be the decider. My job is to take care of the health and welfare of my
Marines. So paying attention, leading by example and being genuine is key.”
One thing that Garner learned since her first day in the
Marine Corps and has stuck with her throughout her career is to never let
yourself think you can’t accomplish your goals.
“Don’t allow yourself to be limited just because you’ve
never seen someone like yourself in the position you want to be in,” said
Garner. “If you want to do it, go for it."