Unsung Heros

Vernice Armour

Marine Captain Vernice Armour became the first black female combat helicopter pilot. She served two tours piloting an AH-1W Super Cobra in Iraq. The decorated veteran now works as a motivational speaker, consultant and coach.

QUESTION: Why did you join the Marines and what did your parents think about it?
VERNICE ARMOUR: So why did I join the Marines, that is the most famous question. For those that know my history, I was in the Army reserves, enlisted at first. So when folks said why did you go Marines? I said I was looking for the next challenge. I had already been a police officer, and since I'd already been in the Army that cancelled the Navy and Air Force. If I was looking for the next challenge it was all about the Marine Corps. Kidding [LAUGHS]. I can't help but say that joke. But no, one mission, one goal, one team, we're all in it together. The true reason that I wanted to go Marine Corps, is yes, esprit de corps, it's tough and elite. My grandfather was a Montford Point Marine and he enlisted back in 1942. The Montford Point Marines are like the parallel to the Tuskegee Airmen for that era for the Marine Corps and my dad was three tours Vietnam as a crew chief on the [CH]46. So I wanted to be third generation Marine Corps.

QUESTION: How did your parents react?
VERNICE ARMOUR: My dad said I don't want you to go in the Marine Corps baby. I said, well dad, why not? He's like, well, I was in the Corps, I knew how women were treated. I just don’t want my baby being treated that way. I said dad, I understand where you're coming from. Number one, I'm going to be a pilot and I'm going to be an officer, not saying that that's going to be easy, but it'll give a little latitude to try and make some type of change. And if I don't do it, who's going to? At some point somebody has to take the steps forward to change things from how they are to how we really want them to be. So I said, I know you don't want me to do it, but I'm doing it. He just wanted me to be happy. My parents, they just wanted me to be happy. So I've probably given them all their gray hair.

QUESTION: There are people who thought that women didn't have the toughness to be Marines. What are your thoughts on that?
VERNICE ARMOUR: There are still people that feel like women don't have what it takes to be a Marine. And that's okay, because women are there, women are Marines, we serve by the side of our brothers, and we always will. Women are more than willing, more than able, more than capable to do the job that they're signed up to do, and it's not a job, it's a calling. United States Marine, you know, leader of Marines. And I'm honored to have served, and if you can meet the standards, just like any of the other guys, then you're capable to do the job. That's what we do.

QUESTION: General Mutter said that during World War II enough women joined the Marine Corps to allow the U.S. to win the war in the Pacific. What are your thoughts on those who came before you in the Marine Corps?

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