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Sally Murphy

First Woman Army Aviator

Long ago Col. Sally D. Murphy earned the distinction of becoming a U.S. Army aviator and first woman U.S. Army helicopter pilot. Col. Murphy began her aviation training flying helicopters at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in September 1973. At the time the Army was increasing roles and numbers of women in nearly every endeavor. Helicopters are the backbone of Army air support to ground warfare, along with other smaller, specialized activities including fixed wing aircraft. The Army’s initial plan blended Sally’s intelligence background with aviation and used her as a member of a small unit supporting early warning and signal intelligence in Germany.

Upon her return to the United States in 1979, as a member of the1st Infantry Division, she returned to helicopter duty with the Aviation Battalion as the S-2 or intelligence officer and assigned flight duty in Hueys. During her 4-year assignment with the 1st Infantry Division, the period was one of development in post-Vietnam aviation organization and tactics. Night flight procedures were important but night vision aides had not yet been developed.

Sally was returned to Germany and in 1986 was assigned Commander of the 62nd Aviation Company (The Coachmen) in support of V Corps headquarters. In 1991, Commander Murphy was assigned to the 78th Aviation Battalion at Camp Zama, Japan. The unit was much like the 62d Aviation Company in that it was a headquarters support unit, multi-missioned and mixed aircraft with its own airfield operations. Under the command of Sally D. Murphy, the unit flew and maintained UH-1 and UH-60 (Sikorsky Blackhawk) helicopters and C -12 (Beech Queen Air) airplanes.