By Staff Sgt. Michael Longoria
January 8, 2011
BAGHDAD — The U.S. Embassy Baghdad and U.S. Department of Transportation hosted a reception, Jan. 7, to honor and recognize the efforts of Horizon East.
Horizon East, the Iraq chapter of the non-profit organization Women in Aviation, was started by female pilots deployed to Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The organization is working to inspire, empower and educate the women of Iraq for success in all aviation related careers.
Several of the founders for Iraqi chapter including, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Chrystina Short, 777th Expeditionary Aircraft Squadron C-130 pilot and Horizon East president, made the 42-mile journey from JBB to the Embassy via rotary-wing to attend the reception. The reception was a chance for Horizon East to interact with current Iraqi aviation leaders.
“While the event was limited in attendance by the Embassy facility, the inspirational message we delivered went out all over Iraq through the media reaching thousands of Iraqi women,” said Short, a Kansas native.
According to the lieutenant, the reception was the culmination of four months of effort here in Iraq and it gave them a chance to promote the visibility of women’s potential to contribute in the aviation industry and highlight the increasing opportunities in Iraq’s civilian and military sector.
“We thought we were coming here to inspire them, but it was really the Iraqi women who inspired us with their courage and determination,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dana Parker, 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron C-130 and MC-12 pilot and Marysville, Wash., native.
Ambassador Jeanine Jackson, management counselor, mentioned in her opening remarks of the reception the importance of networking and connecting professional Iraqi and American women together.
“In aviation and in life, women support one another – professionally and personally,” she said. “We hope that we have supported you by bringing you together today.”
Horizon East was founded in September 2010 and officially gained provisional chapter status two months later in November. The chapter has worked to increase the awareness of the Iraqi women’s ability to contribute to the aviation industry.
“Our biggest success has been creating this important dialogue which will continue the encouragement of women in these fields,” said Short. “We have also educated the women on their opportunities in an industry they may not have considered.”
Horizon East has worked with the U.S. State Department, Department of Transportation, Iraqi Ministry of Transportation, Iraqi and U.S. Military, aviation corporations and Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority as well as the general public to spread that message.
“Members of Horizon East are collaborating with Iraqi nationals in a number of initiatives to include spending time mentoring local Iraqi children and encouraging them to follow their dreams into the skies,” said Short.
The chapter has started an Iraqi network of female aviation professionals, and men who support them, so they can network with each and encourage those around them who are interested in these careers.
“With their intelligence, handwork and desire to improve their community, these women are a boundless resource for their country and fellow Iraqis,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Lila McClintoc, 332nd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance officer and Birmingham, Ala., native.
The WAI organization provides more than $500,000 in scholarships annually and, due to Horizon East’s initial outreach efforts, several Iraqi women have already applied for some of them.
“Our goal is to see the Iraqi’s take ownership of this chapter now that they are connected to the international network of WAI and have access to the resources, information, and scholarships,” said Short.
As security continues to improve in Iraq, the country is rebuilding both its civilian and military aviation sectors. Now that all legal restrictions on women in aviation careers have been removed, Iraqi women now have opportunities to excel in this field and Horizon East is working to make that a reality.
“We want to effectively outline paths to aviation careers and encourage Iraqi women to seek them,” said Lieutenant Short. “By engaging women here, we improve American – Iraqi ties, counter terrorist recruitment efforts and strengthen Iraqi capabilities. Even if only a few women enter the industry, they alone become powerful role models and resources for their community.”