During Women’s History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Veteran Vernice Armour, who served as a helicopter pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Vernice Armour was born in 1973 in Chicago, Illinois, and later lived in Memphis, Tennessee. She first joined the military as an Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet at Middle Tennessee State University in 1993. However, she took a break from college to follow her childhood dream of becoming a police officer. Armour became the first Black woman on the Memphis Police Motorcycle Squadron in 1996. Upon returning to school, she declined to continue her ROTC training and graduated in 1997.
While Armour decided against joining the Army, she applied for the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School one year after graduating. In an interview with the Quantico Sentry, Armour recounted her decision to apply: “I always jokingly say that the Army recruited me for the Marine Corps.”
Armour completed her training in Quantico, Virginia, and commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998. She immediately pursued a career in aviation. She attended flight school at Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pensacola, Florida. Armour graduated top of her class in 2001, and she went to Camp Pendleton, California, for further training.
At Camp Pendleton, Armour served with the HMLA-169 “Vipers” attack helicopter squadron and trained for two years flying the AH-1W Super Cobra. While she trained, Armour won multiple Marine athletic competitions and was named “Strongest Warrior” champion two consecutive years. In 2003, Armour deployed with the Vipers to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and flew combat missions. Armour’s aircraft often returned to base riddled with bullet holes, but she was committed to supporting her fellow Marines on the ground. That year, Armour was recognized by the Department of Defense as the first African American female pilot in the Marines.
Upon returning from Iraq, Armour became a diversity officer at the Pentagon before leaving at the rank of captain in 2007. As a civilian, she has become a motivational speaker and works across the country to share her experience in the Marines to a variety of audiences.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Katherine Berman, Michael Rattner
Editor: Brooke Wolfenbarger, Jacob Reis
Fact checker: Ileana Rodrigues
Graphic artist: Grace Yang