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Friday, January 25, 2008

You Oughta Know #3: Capt Christina "Thumper" Hopper

by Symphony, WAOD Contributor
U.S. Air Force Capt. Christina Hopper is, to her knowledge, one of two Black female fighter pilots in the Air Force. She is also the first and only Black female F-16 Fighting Falcon instructor pilot at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona and the first female Black F-16 pilot to fight in a war, flying about 50 missions in Iraq.
Hooper's squadron was already in the area when the Iraq War kicked off. "Sure enough, while we were there, they basically froze everybody that was in theater and said we were going to stay there until Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off," she recalls. "Once the war kicked off, we were flying anywhere from two to three times a day, so it really added up fast."
As the child of two Air Force veterans, Hopper didn't think she would follow in her parents' footsteps but before her freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin she talked with an Air Force recruiter and decided to join the Air Force ROTC.
Discipline along with the integrity and core values of the Air Force were instrumental in Hopper's decision to stick with the ROTC program. Along with her commander's decision to allow her to balance the program with her activity as a competitive swimmer.
She began her freshman year in the premed program and studying psychology. She thought that perhaps she'd be a doctor in the Air Force, but she decided after her freshman year that premed wasn't for her but she stuck with the psychology major, considering that military intelligence might be a good route to take. In her junior year, her ROTC commander talked to her about becoming a pilot.
She applied for a pilot slot in her junior year. She qualified and began training. "I just trusted that if God wanted me to do this, he would give me the ability and the skill to go and do it," she said.
Hopper earned four Air Medals and one Aerial Achievement Medal in the war. Three of the Air Medals were for the amount of time she spent flying in combat, and one of them was for flying through rain and blowing sand and completing her mission despite her aircraft being struck by lighting and losing her jet's anti-aircraft warning system. The Aerial Achievement Medal was also for combat hours flown, but the hours weren't sufficient to earn another Air Medal.
Her husband Aaron is also an Air Force pilot.
Read more about Capt Christina "Thumper" Hopper, and here, and here.
Read about Air Force fighter pilot Shawna Rochelle Ng-A-Qi
Encourage a girl to put her head in the clouds, and the rest of her body too!
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