Coast Guard officer women aviators – “The Firsts”

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Originally Posted by Diana Sherbs, Monday, March 11, 2019

The Women in Aviation International Conference is scheduled to be held this week, March 14-16, 2019, in Long Beach, California. Nine Coast Guard female aviators have been nominated to be honored at this conference. This first blog highlights officer women aviators. Check back tomorrow to learn more about the enlisted aviators who have also been nominated.

Janna Lambine

Janna Lamine

Janna Lambine, the daughter of a retired Navy commander, was raised in East Walpole, Massachusetts. She graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 1973 with a degree in geology. Lambine applied for flight training while attending Officer Candidate School, and upon graduation in December 1975, she began her flight training in January 1976. She received her wings at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on March 4, 1977, earning the title of Coast Guard Aviator #1812, and received her designation as a Coast Guard HH-3F helicopter pilot on May 6, 1977. This made her the first female aviator, the first female helicopter pilot, and the first female HH-3 helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard.

Lambine began her Reserve career in January 1981 but was re-called to Active Duty during Operation Desert Storm and served on Governor’s Island for six months during and after the war. She eventually retired from the Reserves in 2000 as a commander. In her civilian life she was a trainer and exercise instructor for 18 years in Massachusetts. She currently enjoys life on Cape Cod sailing, kayaking, clamming, and walking the beaches.

Vivien Crea

Vivien Crea

Vivien Crea was an “Army brat” who grew up on the east coast and overseas. She graduated from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, with a degree in biology in 1972 and completed Officer Candidate School in 1973. She was assigned to the Marine Environmental Protection division at Coast Guard Headquarters before receiving orders to flight training in 1975. Crea received her wings as the second female aviator and the first female fixed-wing aviator for the Coast Guard on April 29, 1977, designated Coast Guard Aviator #1820. After five months at the U.S. Air Force Navigation School, she completed C-130 training in Little Rock, Arkansas, and became the first female to fly the HC-130 in the Coast Guard. Her first aviation duty assignment was at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. Crea’s career saw many additional “first female” accomplishments rising all the way through the ranks to become the first female vice commandant of the Coast Guard. Vice Adm. Vivien Crea retired on Aug. 7, 2009.

(NOTE: Crea was inducted into the Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2010. Her bio from the WAI webpage reads: “Vice Adm. Vivien Crea is the most senior ranking woman in the history of the Coast Guard whose career consisted of the following firsts: first female aircraft commander; first female military aide to the president; first female to command a Coast Guard air station; first female executive assistant to the commandant of the Coast Guard; first female selected as rear admiral; first female appointed as vice admiral; first female of any military service to be appointed as second in command of the military force; and first female to be awarded the Coast Guard’s Ancient Albatross honors, as the aviator on active duty who has held that designation for the longest time.”)

Colleen Cain

Colleen Cain

Originally from Burlington, Iowa, Colleen Cain graduated from the University of California in Santa Clara in 1974. She completed Officer Candidate School in 1976, and keenly interested in being selected for flight training she obtained her Private Pilot’s License on her own time and at her own expense in 1977. In 1978 her dream of flying in the Coast Guard was realized when she began her military flight training. Colleen received her wings on June 8, 1979 earning the title of Coast Guard Aviator #1988 and became the Coast Guard’s third female aviator, and the first female HH-52 helicopter pilot. Her first duty assignment was Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii.

Cain progressed through co-pilot, first pilot, and aircraft commander training while at Air Station Barbers Point. In 1978, she was awarded the Coast Guard’s Achievement Medal for resuscitating a three-year-old boy who had been pulled from the water after a boating accident. In the early morning hours on Jan. 7, 1982, in torrential rain, heavy winds, and near-zero visibility, Cain and two other crew members launched at 4 a.m. on a search and rescue mission and made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation “so that others may live” when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in the Wailau Valley on the north shore of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands while responding to a distress call from a 74-foot fishing vessel in danger of sinking with seven persons on board. At the age of 29, Colleen Cain became the Coast Guard’s first female aviator to die in the line of duty. In 1985 the 100-room residence hall at the Coast Guard Reserve Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia was named “Cain Hall” in her honor.


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