In the majority of cases, to be the first at something requires a courage, tenacity, and initiative of unusual strength. This can certainly be said of Janna Lambine. As the Coast Guard’s first woman pilot, her actions set an important precedent for women in the military and the workforce. When Lambine attended the Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, Virginia in the 1970’s women were just being integrated into the organization. Public pressures for female inclusion as well as lobbying from women within the organization like Vivien Crea (who would later become a Coast Guard Vice Admiral) contributed in turning the tide toward the acceptance of women in the aviation field. Admiral James Gracey, Commandant of the Coast Guard, was on their side too, believing that 51 percent of America’s population should no longer be prevented from contributing whatever talents they might have to the field of aviation.
For Lambine, who had applied for flight training while in OCS, the call that would change her life came abruptly. Vivien Crea, who had also applied for aviation training and would be right behind Lambine as the second woman to enter flight school, recalled a phone conversation which was likely similar to the one Lambine received; “I suddenly got this frantic phone call while up at the Coast Guard Academy, ‘Get your physical updated; women are going to be considered this time!’”
Consequently, Lambine graduated from Naval Aviation Training at the Whiting Field Naval Air Station in Milton, Florida on March 4, 1977 and her first assignment was piloting helicopters at Air Station Astoria in Oregon. There, her duties included flying search and rescue missions and pollution/fisheries surveillance. She retired as a Commander from the Coast Guard Reserve in 2000.
Lambine’s initial steps through the barrier separating the sexes in the field of Coast Guard aviation has been followed by many outstanding women aviators who, while forging their own paths, continue to set an example for the women who follow in their footsteps.
We honor you, Janna Lambine .