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THE NEXT GENERATION OF FIGHTER PILOTS

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - New F-16 pilot candidates for the 175th Fighter Squadron, South Dakota Air National Guard include, left to right; 2nd Lt. Brant Ravenscroft, 2nd Lt. Valerie Vanderostyne, 2nd Lt. Shanon Davis, and 1st Lt. Blake Schneider.  The new "Lobos" will be attending Undergraduate Pilot Training over the next 13 months and amongst them is the unit's first two female F-16 pilots. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Stewart)(Released)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - New F-16 pilot candidates for the 175th Fighter Squadron, South Dakota Air National Guard include, left to right; 2nd Lt. Brant Ravenscroft, 2nd Lt. Valerie Vanderostyne, 2nd Lt. Shanon Davis, and 1st Lt. Blake Schneider. The new "Lobos" will be attending Undergraduate Pilot Training over the next 13 months and amongst them is the unit's first two female F-16 pilots. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Stewart)(Released)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - -- The face of the South Dakota Air National Guard's F-16 pilot is changing. Our next generation of fighter pilots will include two females, the first the unit has seen in its 66 years of existence.

2nd Lt. Shanon Davis and 2nd Lt. Valerie Vanderostyne are among the four newest pilots of the 175th Fighter Squadron to pass their Initial Flight Screening in Pueblo, Colo. These women, along with 2nd Lt. Brant Ravenscroft and 1st Lt. Blake Schneider will be attending Undergraduate Pilot Training in 2012-2013. The thirteen month program will teach the young lieutenants the skills they need to follow in the footsteps of other outstanding pilots who have served with the unit.

Three of these outstanding pilot candidates are graduates of South Dakota State University and two of them were former enlisted members of the 114th Fighter Wing as well. They are truly great examples of what our state has to offer.

Lt. Valerie Vanderostyne, SDSU graduate and a former enlisted member of the 114th Logistic Readiness Squadron Traffic Management, says she has always wanted to be a pilot with the unit.

"I always wanted to fly with the unit," says Vanderostyne. "The fact that I will be one of the first females to fly for the unit was not something that I aspired to, but it just kind of happened that way. I'm honored."

Lt. Shanon Davis took another path to her career as an F-16 pilot. "Both my parents were pilots in the Air Force and so flying has always been a part of my life." said Davis.
Shanon comes to the unit from Des Moines, Iowa and has a Masters Degree in Engineering. The first time she put on an Air Force uniform was when she went to the Academy of Military Science for Officers training.

"I didn't find out until a couple months into the process that it was such a big deal that I was hired." says Davis when asked about being one of the first females to fly with the unit. "In my mind, I was always going to fly and the fact that I was a female didn't matter. It was really a non-issue in my mind."

While the female pilot candidates may be getting the spotlight, the outstanding accomplishments of our new male candidates is also important. 2nd Lt. Brant Ravenscroft was a former Chaplains Assistant with the 114th Fighter Wing and served four years on active duty as an enlisted member prior to joining our unit. His degree from SDSU is in Aviation Education and he's excited to start his new career as a pilot with unit.

"I feel fine with Shanon and Val as my future wingmen. They have already proved themselves at AMS and IFS. They have not only met the standards, but far exceeded many of their male counterparts so far." said Ravenscroft.

The fourth pilot to begin his training to become a pilot is 1st Lt. Blake Schneider. Blake comes to us as an SDSU ROTC graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Blake will be departing for his ISF soon and looks forward to the challenges ahead.
"I'm very excited about it, this definitely is fulfilling a dream I've had to become a fighter pilot." said Schneider.

All four Lieutenants are excited about their futures with the South Dakota Air National Guard.

"I'm joining one of the best units there is and there is nothing more gratifying than going out and then coming home to such a supportive and friendly environment," said 2nd Lt. Shanon Davis. "Everyone here is so nice and I know all four of us are just excited to go get our training done so that we can come back and be a part of this great unit."