In the B-2’s 30 year history, there have been nearly 700 people airborne in the two-person cockpit of the $2.2 billion stealth bomber. About 500 of them have been pilots, only 10 of whom have been women.
The 10th woman to become a B-2 pilot, Capt. Lauren Kram, graduated from her training course at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Oct. 4, 2019.
“Nine incredible women have come before me, blazing this trail,” Kram says. “I feel honored to be among them and I know there will be many more of us that follow.”
Their collective story began 19 years ago in 2002. Each has a common theme of strength, perseverance, making a long-time dream come true, and inspiring future generations.
During the month of March, we will be featuring the 10 women.
Number Eight: Capt. Sarah Kociuba, Spirit Number 648
When Sarah Kociuba was 11 years old, her family traveled from Ohio to Pasadena, Calif., for the Rose Bowl college football game. She remembers waking up early on that cold New Year’s Day to attend the traditional pre-game parade.
Kociuba was among the hundreds of thousands of spectators in attendance, watching the elaborate parade floats, massive marching bands and hundreds of horses. But, it was the flyover that captivated her.
“We heard it first, it has a very distinct engine sound, then we saw it. I didn’t know what kind of plane it was,” Kociuba remembers. “My dad told me, ‘That’s the B-2.’”
She knew she would someday fly the stealth bomber. In July of 2017, Kociuba became the eighth female B-2 pilot.
Kociuba grew up watching her dad and two uncles fly as private pilots. She saw military airplanes for the first time as a 6 year old in Cleveland at an air show and remembers thinking, “I want to do that.”
By the time she was a freshman at the University of Dayton that changed to: “I actually think I can do this.”
With support and encouragement from her family, “It was never a thing that I was a girl and also wanted to fly.” Kociuba graduated from college, commissioned as an officer, completed pilot training and began her aviation career as a KC-10 pilot. All the while she maintained her ambitions to eventually fly the most unique airplane she’d ever seen.
When she arrived at Whiteman Air Force Base to start B-2 pilot training, she quickly realized she was unique, too. “I looked around and was like, ‘Where are all the girls?’”
Though sometimes isolating, Kociuba sees her gender as evidence for other females that they too can do things that have been historically male dominated. She knows some of her counterparts see her as “the girl,” but that’s not a bad thing.
Not long ago, she was piloting the B-2 and met up with a KC-10 to refuel in the air. Over the radio, the KC-10 pilot asked, “Sarah? Is that you in the B-2?”
How did he know? “He heard a female voice on the radio,” she said. “I really felt like I had made it.”