Captain Lindsey Jefferies was the first of her six siblings to graduate from college. As a child, her family struggled financially and was constantly on the move in search of better paying jobs and a lower cost of living. She hoped that getting a good education could be a ticket to a more secure future and set the goal of attending UNC-Chapel Hill.
But long before she was old enough for college, she stumbled upon what would become her passion: flying. She took her first flights in high school as part of the Air Force Junior ROTC. First she flew a small, fixed-wing plane and then a Black Hawk helicopter. In 2013, Jefferies became the first African American female Black Hawk pilot in the North Carolina Army National Guard. She graduated from UNC and went on to get a master’s degree in counseling from UNC Greensboro. Today, she serves as the medevac detachment commander of North Carolina’s only unit where she helps rescue people from emergencies or disasters. In addition to flying, she also works as a counselor at Brighter Days Counseling in Salisbury working primary in couples therapy. Jefferies joins host Frank Stasio to share stories of finding her voice, knowing her worth and the trail she blazed in the military.
On her role and responsibilities as a Black Hawk pilot:
Typically in the Army we have two sets of missions for the Black Hawk. It will be the assault or the medavac. And I was initially assault, and that’s air assault where we put troops inside, and we’ll land and allow the troops to get out. As I increased in rank and responsibility, I transitioned to the medavac where we secure the wounded and the injured.
On the reality of flying a Black Hawk helicopter:
It is scary. The very first time you do a sling load or attach anything to the bottom you have to realize there’s something on the outside of the helicopter which adds an incredible amount of risk, because what if something happens to it?
On how her childhood impacted her path:
We moved around a lot — a little bit of instability financially. In my mind, I wanted to have a stable home when I grew up. And for me it started with education. We had a social worker when we were younger, and I loved the way she helped our family, and I wanted to do that. So that’s what got me into the soft sciences and helping sciences.
On the military’s efforts to be more inclusive of women:
There are different support systems and mentorship programs [in place for women] — Sisters in Boots, Beauties in Boots — on the civilian side and in the military to try to close the gap. But with the disparity and the history of the military being an all-male force, it’s going to be a long road. But I see a lot more support than backlash.
Note: This program originally aired January 8, 2020.