CAP Remembers Lt Col Kimbrell During National Aerospace Week
Lt. Col. Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell in front of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (Source: U.S. Air Force graphic/Sylvia Saab)
by Capt. Brandon Lunsford, CAP
Jenks, Okla (September 15, 2021) – From an early age Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell knew she wanted to be a fighter pilot. Now retired, the Air Force Lieutenant Colonel knocked down a racial barrier by becoming the first black female fighter pilot.
"I decided to focus on something I could do every day versus maybe going to the moon one time,” Kimbrell said in an Air Force interview in 2012. "So, I started to look at the jets and flying fighters."
After earning her pilot wings in Aug. 1999, Kimbrell flew over 170 combat hours in the F-16 Fighting Falcon during Operation Northern Watch in Iraq.
“I was never apprehensive about pursuing my dream,” said Kimbrell, who acknowledged wanting to be a fighter pilot as early as the fourth grade.
She found every opportunity to get closer to the flying world and the military. She joined the Civil Air Patrol, worked at air shows and earned her private pilot's license.
Reflecting on her life, also in 2012, Kimbrell told Civil Air Patrol Volunteer magazine that CAP contributed greatly to her success.
“The military-like experience CAP afforded me really assisted with my transition to military life,” she said, adding that the cadet encampments she participated in as a cadet in Parker, Colorado, in the early 1990s gave her a sense of comfort when she went on to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Kimbrell initially joined CAP to help her earn a pilot’s certificate. “But I ended up doing a lot more,” she said.
As team commander, Kimbrell led the Colorado Wing’s drill team to a first-place finish in the Rocky Mountain Region’s competition and then represented the region in the National Cadet Competition. She also commanded cadets in her local squadron.
“One of the most difficult things to do, I think, is to lead your peers,” she said, “and CAP is a great way to learn that skill.”
As part of the Youth Aviation Initiative, Cadet Wings is a merit-based program, providing formal flight training for CAP cadets pursuing a Private Pilots Certificate (PPC). The PPC is recognized by industry as the first milestone for those who have a serious desire to pursue a flying career. Cadet Wings also includes needs-based elements to remove financial barriers for economically-disadvantaged cadets.
The origins of the Civil Air Patrol story began in 1936, when Gill Robb Wilson, World War I aviator and New Jersey director of aeronautics, returned from Germany convinced of impending war. Wilson envisioned mobilizing America’s civilian aviators for national defense. The proposal for a Civil Air Patrol was approved by Commerce, Navy, and War departments and CAP national headquarters opened its doors Dec. 1. In January 1942, U-boats started attacking the shipping lanes along our east coast. By June, enemy attacks destroyed nearly 400 merchant vessels and oil tankers off the U.S. Atlantic coastline, often within sight of our shores. Civil Air Patrol was called into action by a short-handed military. With privately owned airplanes armed with light bombs, civilian volunteers became the eyes of the home skies, flying a total of 244,600 hours patrolling and safeguarding America's coastline, aiding the safe movement of war material to the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. Today’s Civil Air Patrol may look different, but its core remains the same. It continues to support America’s communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development and promotion of air, space and cyber power.
To learn more about Oklahoma Wing, visit okwg.cap.gov.
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About Civil Air Patrol
Now celebrating its 80th year, Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessna aircraft and more than 2,000 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and performs about 90% of all search and rescue operations within the contiguous United States as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Often using innovative cellphone forensics and radar analysis software, CAP was credited by the AFRCC with saving 130 lives during the past fiscal year. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. As a nonprofit organization, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education using national academic standards-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Members also serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs.