The only female Flying Chief Warrant Officer ever commissioned in the US Navy launched her final flight on a C-2 Greyhound Aug. 3 from the USS Nimitz.
Lt. Amy Blades-Langjahr completed 22 years of service to the nation. She rose through the ranks from Airman Recruit all the way to Lieutenant. She fought through all the twists and turns along the way, always looking for the next challenge.
Her advice to the next generation is, “Never find yourself without a PQS (personnel qualification standard) in hand. Even if you’re fully qualified for your particular job, keep going.”
When the Twin Towers were hit on September 11, 2001, Blades-Langjahr was stationed on the USS John F Kennedy (CV 67). They were pulling out for a Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) and getting turned around by the tugs. The second plane hit the Twin Tower as the ship entered the jetties.
They had port calls in St. Thomas lined up and they were headed out for a Mediterranean deployment; not even going to the 5th Fleet.
The Kennedy had failed their Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). An INSURV is a Congressional mandated inspection of U.S. Navy ships to thoroughly check damage control ability and the ship’s material conditions to ensure ultimate mission readiness.
The crew of the Kennedy was divided into two sections, port and starboard crews. They were working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, 12 on, 12 off to accomplish the repairs and maintenance needed to get out to sea again.
“We had a full night check and a full day-check, the whole ship was working 24 hours a day. All the way through Thanksgiving. We didn’t get Thanksgiving. All the way through Christmas,” said Blades-Langjahr.
The crew survived the grueling schedule and when January came around, Blades-Langjahr faced the decision of whether or not she should re-enlist.
“I wasn’t going to do it. I was hard set against it,” she said. She was facing a deadline of February 2nd.
Her chief sat her down on January 31st and he said, “’Why are you getting out? How big do you think the Navy is? My chief said, ‘The Navy is bigger than one ship. The Navy is bigger than one INSURV failure. There are countless places that you could go and never be at the same place twice in a naval career. Why are you stopping now?’”
That conversation prompted Blades-Langjahr to think about different ships, potential duty stations and different opportunities the Navy could provide.
She walked down to the career counselors’ office and put her reenlistment paperwork in, three days before her End of Active Service (EAOS) date.
Early in her career, Blades-Langjahr started breaking ground with career firsts. As an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class, she secured herself a backseat ride in an EA-6B Prowler. Even though she was in a rate that didn’t have any business being in that aircraft.
When she was asked why she pressed for the ride, Blades-Langjahr said, “Because people told me I couldn’t!”
The experience on the EA-6B Prowler motivated her to complete swimming and aviation physiology courses on her own time. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) had to approve the request, which happened after five months.
In 2006, Blades-Langjahr applied to Flying Chief Warrant Officer program, but was not accepted. In 2008 she applied again and rose to new heights when she was accepted into the program. The Navy ran this program from 2006 to 2014 and sought highly qualified and motivated Sailors from pay grades E-5 through E-7 to commission as Chief Warrant Officers and become Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers (NFO).
Eligibility requirements included having an Associate’s Degree and previously holding a secret security clearance. The Sailors also had to commission by the age of 27 for pilots and 29 for NFO’s.
“It felt like a wonderful accomplishment to be selected overall,” said Blades-Langjahr.
Out of 49 candidates, she was the only female selected for a program that lasted about 7 years.
“Yeah, I’m the only female, but I’m still a flying warrant,” continued Blades-Langjahr. “I still have to perform with my fellow flying warrants. I still have to work in the same capacity, and not be viewed as different.”
Her training included a month of Chief Warrant Officer Indoctrination, followed by Initial Flight Screening, and then Aviation Preflight Indoctrination. She then went to the Training Squadron 4 (VT-4) in Pensacola, Florida then on to Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30), based in Jacksonville, Florida. Upon the completion of training at VP-30, Blades-Langjahr had earned her wings as an NFO.
Her first fleet squadron was Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron VQ-2 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wa., where she stayed until VQ-2 was decommissioned and absorbed by VQ-1 in 2012.
Six months later, as a Chief Warrant Officer 3, Blades-Langjahr transferred to the Aviation Survival Training Center at Whidbey Island. She was the first winged naval flight officer to serve as a department head. She spent three years there in her role as a department head and instructor.
When the Flying Chief Warrant Officer program was terminated in 2014, Blades-Langjahr had a difficult decision to make. She could remain in the Chief Warrant Officer track as a Chief Warrant Officer 4, and be shifted into a different rate or she could transition into the officer career track as a Lieutenant.
“Instead of laying down and dying, I decided to fight and try to go past 20, which I did,” said Blades-Langjahr.
When Blades-Langjahr reached the rank of Lieutenant she was told that she needed to get a Bachelor’s Degree to continue in her career. She started working on her Fire, Arson and Explosion degree. She served on the USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) followed by three years at Fleet Forces Norfolk where she completed her degree.
She then transferred to the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and she will retire from the ship with 22 years of service.
Over the course of her career, Blades-Langjahr talked about her two favorite roles. The first was the role of “yellow shirt” aircraft director. The yellow shirt, she explained, is the only authority aboard an aircraft carrier who can move an aircraft, which, for junior enlisted, is an unheard-of amount of responsibility.
The second was as a “Shooter,” or catapult officer, who would “shoot” aircraft off the flight deck. “Who gets to do that?” said Blades-Langjahr.
She continued, “You just keep grabbing on to things to make your evaluation better than the guy sitting next to you. And that’s how you succeed, and that’s how you keep that motivation and drive to push past normal.”
Blades-Langjahr’s advice is to never accept “no” as the first answer, unless it can be backed up in writing. The opportunities are there, even if the person you’re asking doesn’t know about them. “So, don’t stop asking questions.”
Nimitz, the flagship of Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region. The 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three chokepoints, critical to the free flow of global commerce.