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Florida woman is first to fly on a B-52 combat mission

As cruise missiles were fired from a B-52 bomber and streaked toward targets in Iraq, Air Force 1st Lt. Cheryl Lamoureux was too busy concentrating on her job to consider the bit of history she had just made.

It wasn't until she landed seven hours later that it sunk in. The north Florida native had become the first woman to fly on a B-52 combat mission.

"You don't think about it until you land and there are cameras there. There's nothing really special about it that I see," she told the Florida Times-Union for its Sunday editions.

"I think it's very important women are taking a more active role in every aspect of the military," said Lamoureux, who served on the mission last month as the aircraft's electronics warfare officer.

She said people need to realize that women "can do a job just as good as any man."

Operation Desert Fox, the four-day air campaign against Iraq, marked the first time women dropped bombs and fired missiles in combat.

Navy Lt. Kendra Williams became the first American woman to fire her weapons in combat during the air strikes. Williams, a pilot from Cecil Field Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, flew her FA-18 Hornet fighter-bomber from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

Lamoureux graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1995, the same year the first women were assigned to B-52 crews. A member of the 20th Bomb Squadron out of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., she grew up in Orange Park, just south of Jacksonville.

During a 14-hour mission, Lamoureux's plane launched eight cruise missiles over the Persian Gulf toward targets in Baghdad.

"I think there was a little somberness because you realize you're firing off missiles that will strike another country. You realize the importance of it," she said.

Lamoureux said her ultimate goal is to become an astronaut. She went to the academy in hopes of becoming a pilot, but instead received a navigator spot, she said. She is taking private flying lessons in order to try to earn a seat in the cockpit.

Although she is the first woman in her squadron, Lamoureux said she is not treated differently.

"The men I work with are wonderful. They look at me as a person," she said.

Women have been flying U.S. military helicopters since 1973. They are still excluded from ground combat units.