Flying Against the Odds in Colombia

Posted by Andrea Bottner
March 20, 2008
Erika Pedraza Murillo, Nominee for the Secretary of State"™s International Women of Courage Award

Andrea Bottner servies as a Senior Coordinator in the U.S. Department of State's Office of International Women's Issues.

I was flying deep into the jungle of Colombia to meet Bogota’s nominee for the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage award, Captain Erika Pedraza Murillo, the only female Blackhawk helicopter pilot in the Colombian National Police.

In this traditionally male-dominated field of aviation, Captain Pedraza stands out as a woman of true determination and grit. This brave pilot puts herself in harm’s way on a regular basis as she fights in Colombia’s counter-narcotic, counter-terror battle. To say I was anxious about flying with her in the Blackhawk is an understatement.

I met her during the morning briefing and she had a strong handshake and a warm smile. She spoke effortlessly about her love of flying and the challenges she faces every day. I saw the small room where she sleeps, segregated from her male colleagues. The room was decorated with pictures of her almost two-year old daughter. Captain Pedraza’s smile was warmest when she spoke of her daughter.

We went out to the landing pad together and suited up. I strapped myself into the Blackhawk and couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. I could barely get my headphones on straight due to my shaking hands (you need earplugs or headphones in a Blackhawk, because it is so incredibly loud).

Captain Pedraza went through her control check calmly and swiftly. The noise grew louder and suddenly, we just lifted up. It wasn’t abrupt taking off, it was a soft ascent. We hovered momentarily and then that strong forward motion kicked in and we were off.

In a Blackhawk, the noise and the wind works together to lull you into a hazy state. It can be a strangely calm place. Captain Pedraza is a great pilot. We had a successful mission and landed smoothly.

We evacuated the plane and said a quick goodbye to the captain. She was off on another mission. As I stood on the landing pad and watched her go, I was incredibly proud of this woman. I see why women in Colombia can, and should, look to her as a role model.



March 21, 2008

Dmitry in Russia writes:

It is a big mistake when women are used as combatants. It makes all women (not only those who choose this strange deviation) a legal target in the war. What will you tell when Erika will be killed by enemy? "A brave Captain fulfilled her mission"? United Nations must forbid usage of women in war in the same way as it is established for children. And, by the way, a man who send a woman into the battle - is not a man.

United States
March 21, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

I agree entirely with the traditional prohibition on women in battle. American soldiers were shocked when they first saw Vietcong women dying in firefights during the Vietnam War, because it violated a taboo in America and no soldier wants to kill women or children during war. Vietnam was the first war in which women were widely used as combatants, and killing them placed a heavy mental burden on the soldiers who had that job. It is but a small step from using women in battle to using children in battle, and America used to have a certain morality that dictated that women and children should never have to fight wars. It is a terrible loss to America that this moral standard, among others, has disappeared under the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

Tennessee, USA
March 24, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Kudo's to that soldier.

The protection of your Country falls to all citizens. The Israelis are a prime example of Nationalistic pride and support.

As Americans we are spoiled in our civility. The seemingly unorthodox use of women and children is always a peril in any war scenario by ground troops. Vietnam is by far not the first or only time this has been experienced by other nations. Many Asian cultures use their women. Most advanced tribal type of cultures use their women and families.

The idea of gender equality takes with it a responsibility and as the birthing rate of civilization is beyond what the earth can support now, the responsibility load has shifted. Why limit their capacity to help in the securing of National borders, threats and policy?

Russia has used women forever, not just in Honey Pot methods. What part of Russia you from? There is a sense of pride going back centuries of Russian women fighting on the fronts...even in France. Now, in the criminal family aspect is a different story completely in Russia. Is it not Dmitri?

The most unfortunate reason for not using women on the fronts has been of legal issue, not moral. Men fight harder when women are present. Why do you think the Islamic population has not taken that many American Women hostage and has female soldiers last on the hit parade?

For some reason, I find the level of conversation on this blog to be very rudimentary and not of the level of the DOS in general. I find it hard to believe that there is this limited a view of this site. In fact, This Seems more a low level federal fishing expedition for profiling to me.

United States
March 25, 2008

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

The kind of evil which has no regard for the lives of women and children, no ethics or morals, and no honor, can be the sole basis for using women in front line combat.

There is no excuse worthy of civilized man for people who would send their daughters, wives and mothers to die in war.

Only throwbacks - Neanderthals with primitive intellect - who celebrate human misery and who feel no dishonor in killing women in combat, could justify using women in combat merely because other primitive cultures have done so out of necessity or callous disregard in the past.

The earth can easily support billions of additional people and certainly will in the future. The earth does have too many government employees, yet no sane, intelligent person would suggest we send bureaucrats to the front lines of a war in order to depopulate the parasite class.

March 25, 2008

Gregory in Israel writes:

I live in Israel, I served in Israeli army and I could be a witness how army service of girls destroys, really destroys pour Israeli army!

First, 99.9% of girls can not fight. Even if a girl passes all required testing and all needed training, she can not function as needed in real battlefield. Second, it increases depravity which itself destroys normal functionality of a combat unit. And, the worst... one of things why man is ready to fight and die in line of duty is feeling of responsibility for his girlfriend, sister and a female neighbor, i.e. necessity to protect women. When he sees that women fight for themselves, his readiness to fight and die becomes lower. When women do not behave as women, men do not behave as men.


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