So…it happened that I Googled a favorite former Bio professor of mine and somehow managed to locate him–now a professor at the United States Air Force Academy! I contacted him, sheepishly asked if I could send him a copy of “Red Sky…”, and did so as soon as possible.
He kindly passed a copy on to a colleague in the history department and strongly recommended that I contact her before my trip to Colorado in August-September. I did so, not particularly expecting much beyond a polite reply. Instead, Maj. Johnson kindly and enthusiastically invited me to speak about the book and the history of the Soviet combat airwomen to her August 31 class at the Academy, entitled: “Women at War: A Global Perspective.” How utterly perfect, I thought, overjoyed and perhaps a touch overawed by the prospect of speaking to a class of Air Force Academy cadets. Highly accomplished folks, these.
On a crisp Monday morning, I waited at the USAFA Visitors’ Center as patches of brilliant blue tore holes in a smoky-slate fog, gradually revealing surrounding mountains and golden meadows. There I met the fascinating Lt. Colonel Swain, who’s been serving with NATO for several years in Europe as a Russia specialist and was filling in that day for the “Women at War” class.
Once at class, Lt. Col Bachler, a specialist in the Russian (and former Soviet) Air Forces, joined us, as did my former Emory professor, Dr. David Westmoreland. Ummmm….no pressure.
I can only hope that the assembled cadets and instructors enjoyed the class one-tenth as much as I
did. Although I’m certainly still ironing out the kinks in my public speaking skills (such as they are), it was a marvelous experience to share the amazing story of Anna Yegorova and her fellow women aviators in the “Great Patriotic War” to such a knowledgeable group. Lt. Cols. Swain and Bachler provided much needed and enthusiastic additional background about Soviet history and the wartime Soviet Air Forces, and the cadets and Dr. Westmoreland asked great questions and kept me telling stories for 50 minutes–how was it I thought I wouldn’t be able to fill the time?
Thank you ever so much, Lt. Cols. Swain and Bachler, Maj. Johnson, Dr. Westmoreland, and cadets for inviting me and for listening to my telling of Yegorova’s amazing life story. Truly, the pleasure was all mine.