Stacy Allison: Every Mountain Is Within Reach If You Keep Climbing

Stacy Allison poses at the top of Mt. Everest Getty Images

On this day in 1988 Stacy Allison of Portland, Oregon, becomes the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.  The famous mountain is 29, 035 feet above sea level and is the highest point on earth.

Free To Run: Zainab Becomes Afghanistan’s First Woman To Complete A Marathon

Zainab Marathon of Afghanistan Getty Images

During the brutal era of Taliban rule, women were jailed for laughing too loudly, murdered for going to school and beaten for leaving the house alone.  Making a sound with their footsteps?  Illegal.

In October 2015, Zainab, 25, became Afghanistan’s first woman to complete a marathon.  She was recruited to run by Stephanie Case, founder of Free to Run.  Free to Run had been partnering with schools to build a network of women’s sports clubs.

Zainab braved threats of violence to finish the Marathon of Afghanistan in Bamiyan province.  She received national media attention and the Franco-German Afghan Woman of the Year award.

“When I applied for the ultramarathon, I had one goal: to open the way for other girls in Afghanistan – in other parts of society as well, but especially sports,” Zainab said. (theguardian.com)

Believe In Yourself The Same Way You Believed In Santa Claus As A Kid

Like so many children around the world, I grew up believing in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.  If I lost a tooth, I expected to find a dollar under my pillow (my teeth were expensive).  If I sat on Santa’s lap and told him my heart’s desires, I expected to see the gift sitting under my tree come Christmas morning.

Why then, as adults is it so hard for some of us to have this same belief in ourselves?  If you have a dream or a goal, where is your confidence in knowing you can make it happen?

Faith without works is dead.

Believe that all of your goals are attainable and take the necessary steps to make them come into fruition.

Believe in yourself the same way you believed in Santa Claus.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Aupke: Sport Had A Hand In My Success As A Combat Rescue Helicopter Pilot

Lt. Col. Jennifer Aupke

My name is Lt Col Jennifer Aupke, and I am a combat rescue helicopter pilot in the Air Force.

I grew up running and cycling with my dad.  He was an Army Airborne officer and groomed me from the start on being a strong woman.  We would go shooting together on Sundays, ride 20-30 miles on our bikes in the evening in Germany, and run in combat boots every morning when I was a senior in high school.  I ate up all the time my dad gave me, always challenging myself and pushing myself harder to keep up with him.

My dad and I in Germany

One day he suggested I go to a military academy, and I chose the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.  Not just anyone gets accepted into this school. At a minimum, applicants need a varsity letter in a sport (mine was soccer), a 3.0 GPA and involvement in a school club to get in. In addition, there are high SAT score and congressional endorsement requirements.  It was the best day of my life to get that acceptance letter and, as you can imagine, it was life changing.

While at the Academy, I set my sights on being the best athlete I could be, competing in power lifting, in which I ranked 7th and hitting perfect scores on my fitness tests.  I ran my 600m test as fast as the guys did, in less than 1:35”.  The school breeds and encourages competition, in everything, and it was my zone to try them all out.

It was off to pilot training after graduation.  That was two years of dedication to studying, focus and drive.  I spent hours in the mock cockpits, in my own mock cockpit in my room, out on the flight line and with my colleagues studying.  My focus from sports had taught me to stay mentally sharp for the dynamic challenges of flight, without a drag on my body from the physical challenges of flying.

In the cockpit

I chose to fly rescue helicopters while the rest of my classmates flew jets.  There was something about the nobility of the rescue mission, “That Others May Live”, and the connection with the ground troops (like my dad) that really hooked me.  But it is not for the faint of heart.  I carry special operation forces and pararescue jumpers in my helo, and if we get shot down, I have to be ready to fight out with them.  All of the women I work with are just as mentally and physically prepared for that eventuality as me.

“If we get shot down, I have to be ready to fight out with them.”

Yes, being a pilot is hard but it is not out of reach for any woman.  My life is dedicated to inspiring other women to know that they can do this, too.   Because being a pilot is so cool!!  I do this through local mentorship, my blog The Milieux Project, and my instagram pictures.  There seems to be a big movement with all of us female aviators to inspire others- there are only 5% of pilots that are women worldwide, we want more to join us.  I hope my story helps another great woman blaze her trail.