Continued from page 1

Airman Howe, who enlisted on July 4, 2011, passed qualifications as an aerial gunner on May 6 for 25 mm guns and 105 mm cannons.

“I grew up around guns, and this was the best job for me,” she said.

She said she hopes to go on the next AC-130 deployment overseas.

“I would be in the back of the plane,” she said. “Basically, you are going to be loading the guns. We basically trouble-shoot malfunctions with the guns, making sure if something does go wrong, we have to be able to fix it.”

Encouraged by parents

Her parents, she said, “were ecstatic about my decision, especially to join the Air Force. They were really happy I took the decision myself.”

Her father, who owns a company that trains civilian law enforcers, does not talk much at home about his Army exploits.

Airman Howe said “Black Hawk Down” helped her understand the culture she would be embracing and learn more about her father.

Author Mark Bowden told the hour-by-hour story of the disastrous hunt for Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in 1993. At one point in a long-running firefight, Sgt. Howe needed to find cover for his Delta men to treat a wounded soldier.

Howe abruptly kicked in the door to a one-room house and barged in with his weapon ready,” Mr. Bowden wrote.

“Less-experienced soldiers still felt normal civilian inhibitions about doing things like kicking in doors, but Howe and his men moved as if they owned the world. Every house was their house. If they needed shelter, they kicked in a door. Anyone who threatened them would be shot dead.”

Connie Beckwith Howe said she and her husband encouraged their daughter to join the Air Force.

“We just felt she had a better chance to be in special operations if she went to the Air Force,” Mrs. Howe said.

“We knew that the Air Force was a little bit more pro-education. To me, it was just a better fit for her. Mary has picked up the strong influence of serving your country. My father instilled this strong sense of patriotism that I think she must have somehow picked up.”

She and her daughter are members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Story Continues →