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Women’s History Month: Caroline Johnson, pioneering Navy aviator, opens up on gender discrimination

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Caroline Johnson has soared to great heights in her military career.

The former U.S. Navy Weapons Systems Officer has flown 42 combat missions over Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq and was the first female F/A-18 aviator to bomb ISIS in Iraq back in 2014.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Johnson, who now serves in the Navy Reserves, shared her story with Fox News correspondent Laura Ingle and reflected on her challenging, yet rewarding career.

“The weight on your chest pushing you back will take your breath away,” Johnson described her experience in the cockpit of a F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, before adding jokingly: “What kid doesn’t want to fly in fighter jets?”

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Johnson attended flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, and her instructors and classmates recognized her as someone who had the skills and personality to become a Weapons Systems officer.

“People talk about finding purpose in your job and there is no greater calling than that to protect your fellow men and women,” Johnson said.

After years of gender discrimination, however, Johnson decided to leave her career. She described the experience in her memoir “Jet Girl” as “a thousand paper-cuts” and said she and other female aviators were attacked because of their gender.

“I’m glad that people are talking about it, because that’s the only way that we can make it better,” Johnson said. “It breaks my heart that not only did I experience incredible challenges, but my friends experienced more.”

Fox News reached out to the U.S. Navy for comment regarding Johnson’s experience and they responded with the following statement:

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“The U.S. Navy is committed to fostering an environment in which all members are treated equally, valued and respected regardless of gender, race, religion, age, national origin or sexual orientation.  Our diverse team – uniform and civilian, active and reserve – will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We are ONE team and ONE Navy every day.”

After Johnson left active duty, she taught leadership at the United States Naval Academy. She helped to recruit new aviators while opening up about her own experiences, and hopes her story will empower women to stand up for what they believe in.

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“If you’re curious, reach out to the people who have your dream job. Reach out to the astronauts, reach out to the jet girls. Reach out to these people because you’ll be shocked,” Johnson said. “They want to help you and they want to bring you along for the ride. “

“Jet Girl” is available to stream on Fox Nation.

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