Female Mid Aims To Break Tradition -- In F-18 Jet

Commissioning Week'91/mids Celebrate Graduation

May 24, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

During her four years at the U.S. Naval Academy, Midshipman Julie Hansen of Edgewater has followed an active but traditional path.

Shesoon may break tradition by becoming one of the Navy's first female F-18 fighter pilots.

Hansen, who will graduate from the academy next week, will attendflight school next February in Pensacola, Fla. She could earn her wings in mid-1993, and she hopes to fly F-18s.

Her cause may be helped by legislation introduced by U.S. Representatives Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., and Beverly B. Byron, D-Md., allowing women in the Navy and Air Force to become combat pilots, positions off-limits to them until now. The legislation is working its way through Congress.

Hansen has wanted to be a pilot since she visited Pensacola two years ago. During another field trip, to the Navy's test pilot school in Patuxent, she met the Navy's first female test pilot instructor, Lt. Barbara Bell.

"I've wanted to be a pilot ever since," Hansen said. "I thought it would be a really neat thing to do."

Her parents, Bendtand Frieda Hansen of Edgewater, are proud of their daughter, the oldest of three children. "She did this all on her own, with no influence or pushing from us one way or another," said Bendt, a retired civilian engineer for the Navy.

Bendt said he isn't nervous about his daughter flying F-18s. "I really don't have any feelings one way or another," he said. "If she wants to do it, my wife and I have always practiced that we won't stand in her way."

Hansen decided she wantedto attend the Naval Academy while she was a student at South River High School.

"I wanted to be in the Navy, and this was a good way to do it," she said. "I grew up on the water. We live on a creek, and I've been boating since I was small."

She was president of the Honor Society in high school and graduated third in her class in 1987. While in high school, she worked with a chemistry professor at the Naval Academy and co-authored a paper with him.

At the Naval Academy,Hansen has been editor of the yearbook, a glee club member, vice president of the Chemistry Club, active in the Officers' Christian Fellowship and the German Club, and played intramural soccer, softball andlightweight football.

"I love it here," she said. "There are times when I get disillusioned with this place and down, but overall, it's the best choice I could have made."

She is one of 80 women in a graduating class of 965. Despite reports of women midshipmen being mistreated at the academy, Hansen said she has experienced no sexual harassment or discrimination during her four years. She said she thought women were treated as equals at the academy and given equal access to facilities and opportunities.

"I'm one of those people who getsalong with everyone," Hansen said. "I didn't run into anyone I had any trouble with."

Hansen said she anticipates no problems in the Navy, either. "I think by now most of the ground has been broken for me," she said. "I'm coming into the Navy at a very good time. A lot ofopportunities have been opened for me."

Hansen will remain at theacademy to finish the yearbook until she goes to flight school next year. Although the war in the Persian Gulf injected some reality intoher senior year, Hansen said she is looking forward to her Navy career.

"I had friends who went over there," she said. "It's really kind of

scary. You really realize what all the training's for. I have no secondthoughts. That's what I'm in it for -- to protect my country."

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