Aviator speaks at Women's Equality Day event

By Andrea Wales (IMCOM)September 16, 2015

Aviator speaks at Women's Equality Day event
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

A female aviator addressed members of the SHAPE/Chièvres community at a standing-room-only event celebrating Women's Equality Day in the art gallery of SHAPE International Library Aug. 26. Attendees also flowed over into the main (lower) level of the library.

The rotary-wing aircraft that Navy Capt. Shoshana Chatfield mostly flies have been the Sikorsky H-60S heli-copter and the Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk (Seahawk) multimission naval helicopter. Chatfield currently works as the senior military assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, or SACEUR.

A turning point in Chatfield's life was a third-grade field trip that included a flight simulator. Her teacher's twin sister was a private pilot, and she was the tour guide.

"I learned two things from that experience: Flying is hard, but women can be pilots," Chatfield said.

The Navy's recruiting website, navy.com, has a photo of a female aviator on its Naval Aviators web page, but being a woman in what had been a men-only field hasn't been easy. Chatfield has faced barriers.

"You go around 'em or you stand at the door until they're ready to let you in," Chatfield said, stressing that you have to get the training that makes you qualified to be admitted.


Women's Equality Day commemorates the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote.

"You cast your vote, and everybody's vote carries the same weight," she said.

However, Chatfield pointed out that, in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, about 80 percent of the legislators are men, which, she said, means that mostly issues that are important to men go forward to become bills and laws.

"It seems a bit unequal what issues go forward," she said.

Politics is a struggle over the power of who decides what, Chatfield said.

Working together

A group identity, cultivated in an environment where no one is isolated, helps ensure that everyone works together to overcome any issues that the group faces, Chatfield said.

"People are more likely to feel respected and feel good about themselves if they're having the same experience," she said.

Just before the cake-cutting at the end of the Women's Equality Day observance, Chatfield said she was pleased that the cake was decorated in purple, the color that represents a joint environment -- many services working together.

"Our diversity is our strength," she said, adding that the secrets are how to get the best out of each person and how to make sure that none of their talents is wasted. "Finding a way to be respectful of the differences is where our growth is."

Chatfield summed up the importance of equal rights by quoting Slide 35 of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute's informational presentation on Women's Equality Day:

Investing in gender equality and women's empowerment can unlock human potential on a trans-

formational scale.

"It's not a question of women's rights; it's a question of everyone's rights," Chatfield said.