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Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group deputy commander, puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A strike fighter at Eglin AFB, Fla., May 5, 2015. Air Force photo by SSgt. Marleah Robertson.

Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group deputy commander, took to the sky in her F-35A Lightning II above Eglin AFB, Fla., on May 4, becoming the first woman to fly the Air Force’s fifth generation strike fighter. “It felt great to get airborne,” said Mau, a former F-15E Strike Eagle pilot. “The jet flies like a dream, and seeing the systems interact is impressive. Flying with the helmet-mounted display takes some adjusting, but it’s an easy adjustment.” Mau said her 14 virtual training missions prepared her well for the first flight, which is designed to orient pilots with the physical aspects of the F-35, according to a May 7 release. “Flying is a great equalizer,” said Mau. “The plane doesn’t know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support. You just have to perform. That’s all anyone cares about when you’re up there, that you can do your job and that you do it exceptionally well.” This is not the first gender barrier Mau has burst through in her career. While deployed to the 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in 2011, she also was part of the first all-female combat sortie, providing air support to coalition and Afghan forces in Kunar Valley, Afghanistan, states the release.