By Lucas Lee | Nashville Voice
Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of March, Nashville Voice will honor history-making women in Nashville and beyond who have made accomplishments that have made a lasting impact on the world. This series is titled, “HerStory, Her Words” and begins with the first African American naval aviator Vernice Armour.
When it comes to firsts, Vernice Armour has some experience in that area. She is the first African-American female naval aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps and the first African-American female combat pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Armour also serves as the first female African-American on the Metro Nashville Police Department’s motorcycle squad, as well as the first African-American female to serve as a police officer in Tempe, Arizona.
Armour flew the AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and eventually served two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
She recently spoke with Nashville Voice about some of her experiences – in the military, and in life.
NV: What were some of your experiences as a female in the military?
Armour: The good was I got to be a pioneer and break a barrier for other women and girls to follow. The low was dealing with the old mentality of the boys club.
NV: What do you think about the current attention women are receiving?
Armour: It’s way overdue for women to be recognized. We had to get to a place as a collective, as a community, to be not just willing to recognize women, but recognizing women. It’s like back when there was slavery. The majority felt that slavery was OK. So, living in a country where we have freedoms where the majority rules, many times it’s hard for the minority to make forward movement. And now the minority is starting to become the majority. And things are shifting.
NV: What advice would you give to young women?
Armour: I would tell them to make their gutsy move. What’s a gutsy move? In your gut, you know it’s right. It takes guts to do it. But you’ve got to take action. It’s not enough just to think about it. You take action and do it.
NV: What was a gutsy move for you?
Armour: Getting out of the military and becoming an entrepreneur. It felt freeing because I had been waiting for a sign, waiting for a sign of when it was time to move on. A couple of women came up to me at a conference (before leaving the military) and said, ‘we’re so inspired, we’re going for our plan A.’ And I said, that’s great! But then in my head, I’m thinking, I inspired them to go for their plan A, and I’m not even going for mine. My plan A was I wanted to be a speaker. And in that moment, I knew that I hadn’t been playing to win. I’d been playing not to lose. My last day in the Marine Corps was June 1, 2007. I drove straight to the airport and caught a flight to my first speaking engagement. I had six lined up for the month of June.
NV: You are a single mother with a 3-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, whom you adopted. How’s your life been as a mom?
Armour: The most amazing duty assignment ever! I wanted to be a mom my whole life. That was definitely a gutsy move, being single, and having children.
To learn more about Vernice Armour, visit http://vernicearmour.com.