Female Salvadoran air force pilot shines in male-dominated profession

By Sara Acosta

San Salvador, Mar 8 (EFE).- With more than 20 years in the military behind her, Salvadoran army air force (FAS) pilot Maj. Sandra Hernandez says that “We women and men have the same abilities” to perform jobs and activities from which “sometimes women are excluded simply for being women.”

The 40-year-old Hernandez, the mother of a 12-year-old daughter, graduated in 2000 and is part of the first generation of women in the FAS, participating in the United Nations stabilization mission in Mali.

“This military career isn’t easy for a woman. I’ve had the opportunity in these more than 20 (years) working in the air force, (to see) how the treatment of women has been changing and evolving. At first, a delicate mission wasn’t entrusted to a women … but currently, yes it’s possible.”

With 630 hours of flight time, Hernandez in 2020 headed a humanitarian air mission to Guatemala after Hurricane Eta.

“It’s been worth it. I can say that we’re opening the road for women and new generations who want to pursue a military career … motivating girls so that they know they have a whole universe of possibilities to be able to be what they want in the future,” she said.

Hernandez said that “For me, it’s a career that has filled me with much satisfaction. I’ve had many … challenges but being able to overcome them gives me great satisfaction.”

At age 18, and motivated by her father – an agricultural aviation pilot – Hernandez entered the Military School to begin her air force training and later trained specifically in aviation, that is in flying aircraft.

Although when she knew that a military career would be open to her, she said, she “didn’t doubt for a moment, but I was scared because I had never seen a women in this military area as a pilot.”

The youngest of four children – two of whom are also air force pilots – Hernandez emphasized that both women and men have the same aptitudes and abilities.

She said that her father was always a happy man with a smile on his face because he was doing what he loved, what fulfilled him and she said that she wanted to “imitate him in that way.”

She participated in UN missions in 2013 and 2015 with flight duties, convoy escort, reconnaissance and civilian security patrols.

For her work in Mali, Hernandez received two UN commendations.

The Guatemalan Defense Ministry also awarded her the Monja Blanca Medal for her work delivering food to zones in Guatemala that had become isolated due to Hurricane Eta.

“The truth is that it’s not easy. But now I see that it’s possible and that motivates me to inspire girls,” she said.

EFE sa/cfa/bp

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