GREENWOOD, NS - Capt. Mary Cameron-Kelly had a lot to celebrate July 15.
The date not only marked her 37th anniversary in the Canadian military, but it was also the day a stamp, marking her career as Canada’s first female CP-140 Aurora Pilot, was unveilled. featuring her image was unveilled.
After 37 years doing what she loves, Cameron-Kelly is still in the same flying role today and has no plans to stop any time soon.
“After 35 years, you’re max pensioned out, so people will say to me, ‘well what the heck are you still doing this for?’,” said Cameron-Kelly. “And it’s because I love doing what I’m doing, plain and simple, and it’s a cool job.”
The recognition was given to Cameron-Kelly by the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots founded in 1929 for the Mutual Support and Advancement of Aviation.
Since 2008, the organization has launched a stamp each year to celebrate different female pilots – Cameron-Kelly is the 11th pilot, and second military pilot, to receive the honour, and is also the first to accumulate over 7,000 hours while serving at home and abroad.
The ceremony took place at the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum where the stamp was launched by Marilyn Dickson, a member with the east Canada section of the Ninety-Nines.
mong those attending the ceremony were a group of young female air cadets, taking part in training at the Greenwood Cadet Training Centre for the summer.
Cameron-Kelly offered words of encouragement for the cadets, as well as for young women in general, on pursuing their dreams.
“Don’t give up, it took me a couple opportunities to get to pilot training, but I made it and that’s all I really wanted,” said Cameron-Kelly. “So just don’t give up, basically, pursue your goals, it may take you a little bit longer, but eventually you can overcome whatever obstacles and do it.”
The North Sydney native began her military career when she was just 19 years old. She had been initially rejected when first applying for pilot training, so she instead became an airframe technician and earned her civilian private pilot licence.
In 1988, after being previously rejected four for military pilot training, Cameron-Kelly finally got the opportunity she’d been waiting for and was accepted into military pilot training. Within three years, Cameron-Kelly qualified as an aircraft commander, and then a Maritime patrol crew commander by 1995.
Cameron-Kelly’s words struck a chord with the young cadets. Isabelle Ranger, who is in the Valley this summer from Ottawa, Ontario, said that she sees Cameron-Kelly as a role model not only for herself, but all young female cadets who are working to someday be in the same role she’s in now.
“I see Mary as one of the biggest role models, especially because we’re here training where she became a pilot,” said Ranger. “Seeing a woman from a small part of Canada being recognized for the incredible things she’s done, she really is someone we all look up to.”
Ranger added that Cameron-Kelly is a great inspiration for all women to follow their dream, and a reminder that woman making progress need to continue to be recognized for the work they’ve done.
“One of the biggest things I took away from hearing her speak today was that nowadays it’s really important to acknowledge the fact that women weren’t allowed to be pilots in the military, women were being restricted from what they wanted to do, and now it’s one of the biggest things to make sure we recognize women like Mary, who, after four tries, finally got there and made it to where she is today,” said Ranger. “It shows us all that she did it and we can do it too.”
And having equality in the air force is important, says Cameron-Kelly. Whether the pilot is male or female, she says, in the end, it should really come down to a person’s capabilities over anything.
“It’s important to have a variety, it’s a diverse culture now, and I think it’s great for women to have the opportunity to get into some of these roles and be a part of it,” said Cameron-Kelly. “And to me, as long as an individual can do the job, then it shouldn’t really mater who you are if you’re capable of it.”
Stamps can be purchased at http://canadian99s.com/stamps