Ex combat pilot urges audience to ‘live gutsy’

Get gutsy! Live gutsy! That was the message from Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour during her high-energy talk Tuesday at WashU Olin.

A Marine, Armour made history as the nation’s first black female combat pilot.

“If you don’t take action, it wasn’t a gutsy move, it was a gutsy thought. It isn’t, ‘Are you willing?’ but ‘Will you?’” Armour said in her talk before Olin students, alumni, faculty and staff.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Armour completed two tours in Iraq.

“I never wanted to be ‘one of the guys.’ What I wanted was to be part of the team: with one mission, one goal, one team that impacts lives,” she said.

On Tuesday, she shared her story of setbacks, challenges, adventure and success.

“Everyone has challenges and obstacles. But the key is, acknowledge those obstacles, don’t give them power.”

She also stressed the importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging.

“It’s all about access and exposure, and that’s why diversity is so much more than a buzzword. We are the gateway to how young people see and engage the world.”

We all have permission to engage, Armour emphasized. “You are your ground controller. If you don’t give yourself permission, who will?”

Diversity is one of Olin’s core values, Dean Mark Taylor noted when he introduced Armour. “We are gratified to have many different voices here at Olin,” he said. “And just as important is making sure those voices are included.”

Armour uses her voice. She now runs a consulting firm and gives motivational speeches. In addition, she’s the author of the book “Zero to Breakthrough: The 7-Step Battle-Tested Method for Accomplishing Goals that Matter.”

The event was part of Olin’s Leadership Perspectives series. Watch FlyGirl’s entire talk here. You’ll be glad you did.

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