Combat Pilot Returns To High School For Promotion Ceremony - WSET.com - ABC13

Combat Pilot Returns To High School For Promotion Ceremony

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Roanoke, VA -  Monday marked a very special homecoming for a former Patrick Henry High School student who has gone to great heights since she graduated 26 years ago... literally.

Former F-16 combat veteran, Colonel Jean "Pyro" Havens, came back to the school to receive her full bird colonel promotion -- that's the highest rank of colonel.

Big achievement that only about 7% of all Air Force officers ever attain; a number far less for women which made this ceremony very special for at least one young cadet.

Starting out the day, Lt. Colonel Jean Havens - call sign "Pyro" - prepared for what she would soon call the best promotion ceremony of her life.

That's because this 22 year Air Force veteran wanted it to be here at Patrick Henry High School, in front of a cadre of cadets that has grown from a handful back in her day, to one of the best programs in the country.

"It's for all the young folks at Patrick Henry, ladies and men, just to let them know that they can shoot for the stars and they can be anything they want to be," said Havens.

Not that having her family present was an afterthought... because it wasn't as they were there too, but it was really about the cadets and what her story could mean to them.

"It inspires me, and reaffirms my ideas to keep going and to keep pushing. To excel and be excellent and keep trying. Even when it gets hard," said JROTC senior Seema Tailor.

And while Havens didn't specifically do it for the young ladies, she admits the rarity of her feat, as a woman, is not a feat that goes unnoticed.

Knocking out three birds with one stone; the sign of an efficient Iraq War combat pilot.

A woman who ranks first in the Air Force in many ways trying to become a number one inspiration for those that follow her, as she leaves a full bird colonel.

"It just gives me great hope that even though I am a female I can definitely make a great impact. I can change the world. I can be whatever I want to be," said Tailor.

Colonel Havens has lead an extraordinary career which includes helping train the Iraqi Air Force and dealing with the fallout of the Bin Laden raid while assigned to Pakistan.

Havens is currently assigned to the Pentagon with orders to Turkey in the coming year.

 

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