Sourya Saleh, wearing a black scarf to cover her hair and an olive drab Afghan Army uniform, doesn’t look like a cultural warrior.

But she and three fellow Afghan women, the first of their gender to qualify as pilots in the Afghan Army, may help change attitudes about women in their conservative Muslim homeland where women’s voices often go unheard.

“We are going to open the door for other ladies in Afghanistan,” the Afghan Army Second Lieutenant told reporters at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. “It is a big deal for us, to open this door for others. Other ladies who feel that they can’t do it, we want to show them.”

Afghanistan’s first crop of female military pilots arrived for training this week, where they will first study English at the Defense Language Institute at Lackland. Dozens of male Afghan pilots have gone through similar training in the United States.

After six to eight months of language study, they will travel to Fort Rucker in Alabama for helicopter pilot training in the U.S. Army “Thunder Lab” program.

“What a great day this is,” said Col. Eric Axelbank, Commander of the 37th Training Wing, which oversees U.S. Air Force basic training at Lackland. “This is a huge step, having female officers who will become pilots in a traditionally male dominated field.”

Source: Jim Forsyth for Reuters.

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