Trail-blazing Marines Corps pilot Vernice Armour shares how she soared

Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, America’s first black female combat pilot, encouraged a Penn State audience to not let obstacles deter them from their path by saying, “It’s not about the brick wall, it’s about the weapon we will choose to get through it.”

Armour, a retired Marine Corps captain, spoke Friday during a Penn State Military Appreciation Week program in the HUB-Freeman Auditorium.

Armour is not only a veteran, she is the CEO of her own company, which includes coaching and seminars.

Armour said her interest in the military wasn’t influenced by her military family background because she aspired to be a police officer who rode a horse downtown in her hometown of Memphis, Tenn.

However, as a college freshman, she discovered an advertised free trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but she would have to join the women’s JROTC rifle program to embark on this trip.

She realized the military training she received could give her an advantage to becoming a part of the police department.

Once she joined the military and became successful, people asked her how she accomplished so much, and then Armour started asking herself the same questions. So she wrote her book, “Zero to Breakthrough,” which elaborates on a seven-step process she created to accomplishing goals.

The steps are: create your own flight plan, think about how and risk assessment, take-off, which is one of the most critical points, execute, and review, recharge mentally, physically and emotionally and re-attack, she said.

In regards to “re-attacking” the situation, Armour said so many people are afraid of failure that they don’t even try something new.

“Failure is the fertilizer for success,” Armour said, sharing how she applied three times before getting accepted into the Marine Corps, failed the initial flight test, and didn’t do everything perfectly once she got into the military.

The biggest obstacle people face when they think about their obstacles is rushing to judge why something happened because of their societal challenges, whether they are LGBTQ, female or a minority, she said.

The phrase, “You have permission to engage,” means for Armour and people in the military is a person has clearance from the ground controllers to engage their weapons, she said.

In life, Armour said you have permission to engage because there are no ground controllers.

“If you don’t give yourself permission, no one else is going to,” she said.

When Armour had a patch with “FlyGirl” on it, and everyone started calling her that, she thought that would be the perfect opportunity to brand herself, she said.

“So when they see me, and they see ‘FlyGirl.’ It’s not about my name but what ‘FlyGirl’ represents especially for the younger generations on the things that they can accomplish,” she said.