Nigerien Air Force’s First Female Pilot Trains at Little Rock AFB

Capt. Ouma Laouali, the Nigerien air force’s first female pilot, watches her instructor pilot as he completes pre-flight checks on a C-130 Hercules at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., March 5, 2020. Laouali completed her C-130 Hercules pilot training at Little Rock AFB April 22, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford)

The first female pilot in the Nigerien Air Force completed training at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas on April 22.

Capt. Ouma Laouali completed the six-month training program to become a C-130 Hercules pilot in the C-130 Formal Training Unit international pilot training conducted at Little Rock AFB.

While becoming a pilot hasn’t been easy, she has accomplished every goal she has set out to achieve: becoming the Nigerien Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron Operational Detachment Commander – while facing many challenges during her 2,600 flying hours as a combat tested pilot – proving to everyone that women are capable of doing the same thing anyone else can, she said.

During her 10-year career, she has flown aircraft such as the Cessna 208 Caravan and the Diamond DA42.

While Laouali wanted to become a pilot from a very young age while chasing planes overhead, she now feels the pressure to set a good example for women who may follow in her footsteps and it’s a reminder for her to try her hardest on every challenge.

“Becoming a pilot made me feel very proud,” Laouali said. “At the same time, it put a weight on my shoulders because I knew I had to perform at my best for the women who will follow me. I wanted to set a good example so they would have the chance to prove themselves too. I feared that if I failed, everyone would remember that a woman failed and people might hesitate to give another Nigerien female pilot a chance.”

This is the first time that Laouali has trained in the US and this has given her an opportunity to see how the U.S. Air Force Operates. But the most important part has been having other female pilots to talk with. “I felt like I could talk to these women and we could share and learn from our experiences,” said Laouali.

“She is a pioneer in every domain,” said Nigerien air force Col. Amadou Moctar, Nigerien Air Base 201 commander. “She has been flying with the other crew members and they don’t look at the fact that she is a woman – she is a pilot – performing just as good as the others.”

The C-130 FTU at LIttle Rock AFB trains1200 international pilots a year and this strengthens the U.S. Air Force’s strategic international relationships across the globe.

“We can show our commitment to our partnerships by training together,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Stephen Hodge, 314th AW commander. “The interoperability and the opportunities to train together now will pay off in great dividends if we go into a potentially hostile or contested environment together in the future.”

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