Beth Yandow

Veterans in Blue 2017

Beth Yandow poses for a portrait inside the National Cryptologic Museum May 12, 2017, Annapolis Junction, Maryland. Yandow joined the Air Force in 1984, becoming the first female to qualify as the Airborne Mission Supervisor on the RC-135 in April 1995. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Beth Yandow joined the Air Force in July 1984 when she was 17 years old. She joined on a dare from her brothers after she suggested one of them enlist in the Army. She trained as a linguist and was stationed in Athens, Greece, where she served her first two years performing ground duties in a combat flying unit, an unusual assignment for a woman at that time. When women were cleared for airborne duty in 1987, Yandow, a staff sergeant at that time, and a handful of her female comrades, immediately went back to the United States to accomplish aircrew training. “I always wished I could go back through survival training a second time, because I could learn more and some of it might actually be enjoyable,” Yandow said. After spending several years stationed overseas, Yandow became the first female to qualify as an airborne mission supervisor on the RC-135 in April 1995. Retiring in January 2006 as a master sergeant, Yandow fondly remembers her military service. “My Air Force days were some of the best days of my life. In the flying community, you develop a camaraderie and bonds that last forever. If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t change a thing.”