Real Woman: Explain your role is in the Air Force today.
Jannell MacAulay: I am currently the commander of the 305th Operational Support Squadron—our mission is to support rapid global mobility to missions ranging from in-flight refueling to combat operations to humanitarian relief.
RW: How did you get here—did you always want to be a pilot?
JM: As a child, my uncle was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot. He used to take me to air shows and tell me stories about his trips around the world and his time in the Gulf War. He flew Marine One for President Reagan and inspired me to fly. My grandfather was also a Marine, so I grew up around the military, was raised in a patriotic family, and felt I had a calling to serve my country.
RW: What do you think would surprise most people about the realities of being a pilot in the Air Force?
JM: Probably one of the biggest misconceptions is that it is all about the pilot or the aircrew. While being the operator of the aircraft is extremely important, many people don’t realize the extensive amount of support that goes into preparing, maintaining, and launching airplanes. From the maintenance teams to life support to the airfield operations team, it is a huge team effort to get a mission off the ground.
RW: From the outside, it seems like female pilots are very rare. Is that actually the case? Was that ever difficult for you?
JM: While it is becoming more common to see female aviators, it is still rare to see them in the higher ranks of the military. It is a challenging job—especially when you add in a family. I have an active duty husband and two small children. It is extremely difficult to balance everything at times. My success truly lies in the team concept. My husband and I make a great team, and we have exceptional support from both of our families.
RW: What would you want to tell young girls who maybe dream of being a pilot one day?
JM: First, never give up on your dreams—whatever they may be! I mentor young people all the time and the first step is finding something you are passion about! I also tell kids, especially the young girls, to be true to themselves. I was a baton twirler, dancer and cheerleader in high school, that was a big part of who I was, and while I was also good at math/science and physically fit, I learned valuable skills in coordination, teamwork and leadership that prepared me for my Air Force career. There is not one single “right” way to prepare to be a pilot in the military—there are many paths, each as unique as the individual.
RW: What’s the hardest part about your job/life (moving so often?)?
JM: The hardest part is finding balance. It is critically important to take care of my family and take care of my Air Force teammates, but many times we forget to take care of ourselves. One thing I have learned over the years is that taking care of ourselves in foundational to everything else we do in life! I’m a better mother, a better wife, a better leader, and a better pilot when I make sure to eat well, exercise, sleep, and manage my stress in a healthy way. I practice mindfulness regularly as a way to decrease stress, improve the quality of my sleep, and enhance my working memory capacity. But most importantly it enables me to be present with my family when I’m with them, and also with my unit when I’m at work.
RW: What do you love most about being a pilot in the Air Force?
JM: I do love being a pilot in the Air Force. But, I have also been able to experience many other things as a part of the Air Force organization. I’ve flown three different types of aircraft—C-21 Learjets for VIP transport, C-130Es for combat tactical airlift, and KC-10s for inflight air refueling. I’ve also earned my doctorate, I have led people, and I most recently spent time working on the international team that planned and executed the mission to destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapon stockpile. With such a diverse background, I appreciate the opportunities the Air Force has provided to help me grow professionally and personally while supporting our nation’s objectives.