ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A new policy from the U.S. Air Force is allowing a Dyess B-1 pilot to fly while pregnant. Dyess called the new policy a ‘huge stride in Air Force history.’
Dyess’ Major Lauren Olme, 77th Weapons Squadron assistant director of operations, is expecting her first child with her husband, Major Mark Olme, this April. By their birth, baby Olme will be one of the first babies in the Department of Defense to clock 9.2 hours in a supersonic aircraft.
Maj. Olme said she’s had a passion for flying since she was a child, watching her father fly as an Air Force pilot.
“My dad flew F-15Cs, so I instantly fell in love with flying and the Air Force culture at a pretty young age,” Maj. Olme recalled. “There was never really a time that I officially decided I wanted to join the Air Force, it was just something I always wanted to do.”
Achieving her dream of being a pilot, Maj. Olme gets to carry out another dream that impacts future generations of servicewomen: Flying while pregnant!
Majors Lauren and Mark Olme met in the Air Force Academy in the fall of 2011. Just seven months after graduating, they tied the knot.
“We were navigating being newlyweds while both going through Undergraduate Pilot Training,” explained Maj. Olme. “Both of our flight commanders were B-1 pilots, and the bomber community combined a lot of aspects that we both wanted out of flying. We were extremely fortunate to both get assigned the B-1 out of UPT and haven’t regretted it for a second!”
After training at Dyess, the Olmes took on several assignments together, including a Bomber Task Force to Andersen AFB in Guam, and in 2020, they completed the Air Force’s version of “Top Gun,” the U.S. Air Force Weapons School course.
Fast forward some time, and the Olmes found out in August 2022 that they’d soon become a family of three.
“I was honestly shocked when we found out I was pregnant,” Maj. Olme looked back. “We had been trying for a few months and I somewhat expected another negative test. I tested right before work and after finding out it was positive, holding that secret from Mark all day was torture but I wanted to tell him in person.”
Ever a pilot, this expecting mother still longed to fly. Luckily enough for Maj. Olme, she discovered a new Air Force Policy wherein aircrew members may voluntarily request to fly during pregnancy, and no waiver is required to fly in the second trimester with an uncomplicated pregnancy in a non-ejection seat aircraft if all flight safety criteria are met. All pregnant aircrew members are also authorized to apply for a waiver regardless of trimester, aircraft or flight profile.
“I can’t overexpress how amazing it is that pregnant women now have the opportunity to fly in all types of aircraft,” said Maj. Olme. “It’s a very personal decision that Mark and I made together because there are risks involved in flying the B-1 while pregnant, but after conferring with Air Force and civilian medical doctors, we felt comfortable with me flying for a few weeks.”
Dyess said pregnant aircrew members who request to fly will be informed of the risks, and approval is granted through joint consent of the aviator, obstetrics provider, flight surgeon, and commander.
“This policy is a huge benefit to the Air Force, they have deliberately made a change that provides female aircrew members the same opportunities as male aircrew members,” Lt. Col. Charles Armstrong, 77th WPS commander said. “This allows female aviators to continue building up their qualifications and flight hours to progress in their career field through pregnancy. It was based on years of analysis and research from aircrew physiologists both in the Air Force and outside agencies to make the determination that it is safe and acceptable for women to fly a longer period than they have done in the past.”
Often, you may hear about pregnant women being discouraged from flying. To a pilot, this was a big concern.
“One of my biggest reservations about getting pregnant while being on a flying assignment was the time away from the cockpit, so having the opportunity to continue to fly and not take as much time out of the jet is a great thing,” shared Maj. Olme. “The policy allows for aviators to fly up to 28 weeks, but for various reasons my medical team decided it best to stop around the 22-week point, so that is all the flying I’ll do with our baby.”
As for being one of the first women to carry out this policy, Maj. Olme shared nothing but gratitude.
“I’m honored to be one of the first to fly in an ejection seat aircraft while pregnant,” added Maj. Olme. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it if women in the Air Force didn’t advocate for these types of policy changes, so to live out a policy change that other women worked so hard to enact is truly an honor.”