ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In conjunction with the 80th anniversary of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) and their homecoming at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Dyess Air Force Base also honored the United States’ first female pilots.

Painting of WASP by Cary Smith, Apr. 2022

As part of the summit, organizers paid tribute to the WASPs by bringing in water-color portrait painter, Cary Smith, who used black and white photographs to recreate colorized versions of their early military portraits. 

For Captain Brianna Pauser, she gets to live out her dream everyday, climbing into the cockpit of a Dyess C-130 plane and flying with her crew in formation.

“Just looking at the aircraft ahead of you and flying off their wing is really fun,” Cpt. Pauser said. “You know, it’s kind of like riding a roller coaster, but you have complete control up there.” 

Not only does she get to captain the C-130, but she also trains others how to pilot the massive aircraft. She called it, ‘a dream come true everyday’, one she first had in high school.

Dyess Women’s Summit 2022

However, it was not that long ago that women could not fly in the armed forces, until a brave group of women stepped up to the challenge.

The WASPs created the way for all future women to serve their country, similarly to how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

“For many decades, pilots of the Women Air Force Service Pilots went unrecognized for their service during World War II,” Erin Miller, granddaughter of famous WASP pilot, Elaine Danforth Harmon, said.

Miller said she and Harmon were inseparable when she was a young girl. She spoke of all the days she spent with her grandmother at aviation museums and listening to her stories.

“She inspired us and her grandchildren to pursue our own interests, not hold back, not be afraid- regardless of the circumstances,” Miller said.

Now, 80 years after the WASPS were formed, their legacy continues on in all the women pilots in the military.

For Pauser, she said flying became her passion. But without the WASPs, her dream may have never come to fruition. She said she does not take it for granted either, saying it’s her goal to continue to pass the WASPs legacy on and use their position to inspire the next generation of women pilots.