FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Born into a military family, Maj. Jennifer-Ruth Green has never been one to back down from a challenge.
As a high school freshman, her JROTC instructor struck a chord with her when he brought up the Air Force Academy.
“He said it was very difficult to get into. Very few people do, and it’s hard to graduate from there.” Green smiled and said “challenge accepted.”
It’s a response people have come to expect from the youngest of six children.
“My parents told us, we’re not saving to send you to college, so we’re going to teach you and train you so somebody else pays for you to go to school.”
Green says growing up with four older brothers and a sister toughened her up and helped prepare her for the Air Force Academy.
“It enabled me to feel confident in any situation. I don’t need to feel fear in a man’s world, if you will.”
She recalls with a laugh that she went to the academy ready to set the world on fire.
“When I got there, I was so excited, but after two days of classes, I was like, whoa!”
Her intent wasn’t to fly. She dreamed of being an ambassador.
“Condoleezza Rice had become Secretary of State and that was my goal.”
The goal changed in 2004 when she met Lt. Col. Lee Archer, an original Tuskegee Airman.
He asked then Cadet Green if she was pilot qualified?
She replied “yes, sir.”
He asked if she was considering aviation?
She replied “no, sir.”
She says the aviation legend looked at her and said something that changed her life. “If you don’t stand on our shoulders, who will?”
Green was moved by the powerful words.
“The weight and responsibility they had to take on nearly 60 years removed from slavery as the first African Americans to fly in the military. They fought very hard to take that opportunity and to succeed at it.”
Her response to Archer sticks with her more than 15 years later. “It was a privilege to be able to say, you know what? I will. I will.”
In 2009 she deployed as a counterintelligence agent in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where she served in combat as a mission commander.
She says serving in Iraq changed her.
“War is the ugliest thing I’ve ever been a part of. However, I grew a lot as an officer and as a person as a result of my time.”
In 2012, she joined the Air National Guard and served in California before transferring to the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne.
While on a missions trip to Brazil in 2015, she found her true calling.
She felt burdened to develop and serve missionaries through aviation.
“I know what I was put on this earth to do, and I feel 100-percent confident of that.”
In 2018 , she founded the MissionAero Pipeline (MAP) in Hammond, Indiana.
MAP is a multi-year training opportunity using aviation to develop youth for post-secondary opportunities, with an emphasis on missionary aviation.
Green is a commercial-rated pilot and one of fewer than 150 African-American professional female aviators in the United States.
The accomplishment is something she’s often applauded for, but while talking to a friend at the 122nd, she confided it’s a statistic she’d like to change.
She told Captain Chris Campbell “I want that statistic to be nullified to the point it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Campbell’s response was another life changing moment. “He said, Jennifer-Ruth, there’s no point blazing a trail if the trail doesn’t become a road.”
Green took the words to heart.
“If I don’t bring people up behind me. If I don’t make it easier for them to come along, then it’s worthless.”
She takes every chance she gets to share aviation opportunities with historically under represented kids.
“Sharing the mission. Sharing the vision. Helping people understand aviation opportunities is a privilege.”
“Essentially what we’re doing is building a road to make it easily accessible for those young people behind us.”
She applies the see me, be me philosophy.
“If I were just to say here’s a checklist, it would be like drinking out of a fire hose.”
“But, if I say I’m right next you, let’s do this together, it’s a much more productive approach.”
Green greets young kids after a speech with a question. “Handshake, hug, or high five?”
A few months ago, a young African-American girl gave her a high five and told her something that warmed her heart. She says the girl looked at her and told her she wanted to be like her when she grew up and then walked out.
Green says it was a defining moment and reinforcement that the hard work and dedication was paying off.
“I felt that day it was one of those ‘worth it’ moments.”
Green hopes to continue impacting young lives and she’s not done blazing trails.
In January she’ll become the first African-American female at the 122nd to assume a command position when she takes over the Cyber Operations Flight in 2020.
An honor she’s humbled by.
“I didn’t necessarily strive to serve for that reason” she says with a smile.
“But, I can tell you my parents are pretty excited.”
Click here to find out more about MissionAero Pipeline.