RENO, Nev. — The Nevada Army National Guard marked an important diversity milestone recently with the graduation of its first African-American female UH-60 Black Hawk pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cicely Williams, from rotary-wing aviation flight school.
Williams, 34, of Reno, has been in the Nevada Army National Guard since 2010. She graduated from the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence in July 2017 to become a full-fledged, certified rotary-wing pilot.
"Flight school was extremely challenging," Williams said."When I graduated, I had never seen that look on my dad's face before. He was so proud of me."
Williams grew up in the small town of Gardnerville, Nevada, and graduated from Douglas High in 2002. She subsequently attended and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, and received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
After becoming a commissioned officer and joining the 100th Quartermaster Company, Williams began to ponder a career change.
"I became interested in aviation as a young officer when another Quartermaster Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Fabella, asked if I wanted to become a pilot," Williams said."He encouraged me to try it and start studying for a required test for the flight board. I wanted to try something new that was interesting and challenging.
"When I went before the flight board, I was the first candidate chosen by the board."
Williams never looked back and made it thru UH-60 qualification and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training. She added she wanted to become a pilot to make her family proud. Her father served in the Marines and at one time also wanted to become a pilot.
"Humility, leadership skills, and a good moral compass are all characteristics of a good pilot," Williams said.
Before aviation school, Williams said she was a bit intimidated by the thought of piloting a military helicopter. During flight school, she said her family, friends and 100th Quartermaster Soldiers remained very positive and encouraging.
"My parents were very supportive," Williams said."They emphasized the military's core values and the equal treatment of everyone."
"We're extremely proud and excited that she chose to become a pilot," said John Williams, Cicely's father.
Williams is confident her fellow Guardsmen will judge her by her piloting skills and not her gender or race.
"I believe it's important to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone versus exclusive because you never know what abilities and ideas an individual can bring to the table," Williams said."We as Nevada Guardsmen should never include race or gender into the equation when we are making decisions.
"I love this job. I feel empowered by attaining my goal of becoming a pilot and I am very confident and proud of who I am."
Although she is the first African-American female rotary-wing pilot in the Nevada Army Guard, the Army has boasted thousands of female pilots in its history.
A famous influx of women pilots occurred during World War II with the establishment of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, included more than 1,000 female pilots attached to the U.S. Army Air Forces. Their primary mission during the war was to fly military aircraft from factories to bases around the country.