Someone You Should Know: A Woman With Wings

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Meet Mary. You’ll always find her as part of a team.

”An immediate team program,” said Donley. “I mean you just became part of a team.”

She’s not just a team player, she’s a leader. She is the first woman wing commander in the Civil Air Patrol of South Dakota.

50 years ago, at just 15-years-old, she learned about the Civil Air Patrol through Girl Scouts. She became a cadet.

As of 2001, “woman” and “wing commander” had never been synonymous. Then, the wing commander at the time, a man, had to step down for health reasons, and Mary stepped up.

“Determination, when you just know that it’s your time,” said Donley. “You need to step up. You need to do the job and I felt like I had enough ability to get the job done.”

After her term, Mary even pioneered the way for another woman to become the second wing commander later on.

Mary proudly sits in either the passenger seat or backseat of the plane to make sure operations run smoothly, whether it’s a drill or live-saving search rescue mission.

”In this plane, you have you can see so much of this wonderful country that we live in,” said Donley.

Mary doesn’t just have a passion for planes, but also people.

This woman wing commander was an elementary school teacher for 40 years and mentors the young cadets in the Civil Air Patrol of South Dakota.

”We try to take the time to encourage, especially all the young ladies in our program, to go out and do what they want to do and don’t let things stop you,” said Donley. “Usually we’re our own worst critic. Don’t let any self-doubt or any challenges that rise keep you from doing what you want to do.”

If young girls ever doubt themselves, Mary serves as an example that strong women are like wings, and planes need wings to fly.

”I hope that she gets the feeling that there’s no stopping,” said Donley. “Whatever you put your mind to do, do it.”

Mary is currently recovering from shoulder surgery tonight, but hopes to be back in the sky and mentoring young cadets soon.

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