Pioneer pilot shows mitigated risk brings substantial rewards

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Gloria Gonzalez

Vernice Armour became the Marines’ first African-American female pilot in the Marine Corps./ MICHAEL MARCOTTE

SAN ANTONIO — An aviator’s life is all about risk and risk management.

Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, America’s first African-American female pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, emerged to the “Danger Zone” theme song of the 1986 movie “Top Gun” to discuss the risks inherent in her work as a combat pilot during the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s awards luncheon Monday at its annual conference in San Antonio.

“We are always mitigating risk,” she said. “When I looked up the definition, it’s intentionally exposing yourself to uncertainty.

That’s crazy, right. We can gain or lose something of value — that’s why you take the risk.

It doesn’t mean we don’t do it if there is a risk. It’s how do we mitigate the risk. In aviation, if we didn’t do anything because of the risk, we’re not going into combat. But the lives of the men and women on the ground were at risk if we didn’t go out and support them.”

Ms. Armour told a story of a mission in which her attack helicopter division was sent to support ground troops who had been pinned down north of a cemetery in Iraq but only had about 20 minutes of fuel to execute an attack and return to base, with one missile left on the aircraft — a missile that “was known to be unreliable in close proximity to our troops.”

“That was on-the-go risk management…

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