Women Who Serve: Meet three Eagle County veterans who answered the call of service
Anne Scott, Claire Noble and Laura Johnson share their stories of military service
Women have played critical roles in U.S. war efforts since the American Revolution, serving as nurses, spies, disguised soldiers and in other capacities long before the law caught up and formally allowed women to be recognized as service members in 1948.
Today, women are the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. military, making up one out of every 10 veterans and serving in all military branches and divisions. There are now over 2 million female veterans in the country and women are projected to make up 18% of all U.S. veterans by 2040, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Though their prominence is increasing, only one out of every 68 American women is a veteran, compared to one in seven men. Recent initiatives like the Center for Women Veterans “I Am Not Invisible” campaign are working to shed greater light on their stories and celebrate the contributions that women make in every facet of the military effort.
This Veterans Day, we are highlighting four female veterans in Eagle County. All are members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Minturn, and bring the perspective, work ethic and care of a U.S. veteran to our local community.
Anne Scott: Marine Corps, 2004-2014
Anne Scott always wanted to be a pilot. She was in her first year of her undergraduate studies, pursuing a degree in Aviation Science when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred, and her passion for flight became matched with a sense of duty.
“I felt the call to serve and thought if I was going to do it, I might as well do it 100%, so that’s why I chose the Marine Corps,” Scott said. “It was a challenge, and I loved it.”
Scott became a U.S. Marine after completing 10 weeks of officer candidate school and six months of The Basic School, then pursued her qualification as a helicopter pilot in flight school in Pensacola, Florida. She flew Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters and was the only female pilot in Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, which deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months in 2010 to transport troops and provide attack support.
“It was amazing to get to utilize the skills that we had been trained for so long,” Scott said. “The CH-53 is an incredible machine. It let me fly with a big crew, which was awesome, and I met some of my best friends through that training and at my squadron.”
Upon returning to the states, Scott and her husband, also a Marine pilot, were stationed in Florida where they could start their family while working as a training officer and flight instructor, respectively. Using the child care resources available on base, Scott became a first-time mom while continuing to serve as a full-time Marine.
In Florida, Scott also served as a uniform victim advocate and sexual assault response coordinator. She said that the military strives to have a male and a female advocate in every unit, and since she was always the only woman on her staff she stepped into the role.
“It was heavy. It was very heavy,” Scott said. “I was very thankful that I was there to assist both males and females that came into my office. I’m glad I was there.”
Scott and her husband left the service in 2014 to join his family’s company, Mountain Beverage Distribution, in Eagle. Though she has exchanged a strict military life for a relaxed mountain environment, the impact of the corps lasts a lifetime: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
On Veteran’s Day, she said that she takes time to thank her friends who are still serving and hopes people take the opportunity to connect with veterans in the community.
“I just hope it gives everybody a little reminder to just thank a veteran or ask them about their service,” Scott said. “We are so incredibly blessed as Americans, and those who are willing to put their lives on the line — none of this, in my opinion, would be possible without the men and women in uniform.”
Claire Noble: Air Force Intelligence Officer, 1989-1996
Claire Noble served as an intelligence officer in the Air Force for just over six years, the majority of time spent overseas in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Japan.
Noble joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college and decided to become an intelligence officer as a way to pursue her interest in international studies. Though originally stationed domestically, Noble said that when the Gulf War began she made sure she was part of the international deployment.
“I started calling them just about every week, reminding them that I’m still a volunteer,” Noble said. “Eventually, I guess they got to the bottom of the list, and they called me and said, ‘OK, we’re sending you to Saudi Arabia.’”
Intelligence operations cover a wide variety of assignments, a system that provided the ultimate arena for Noble’s passion for learning new things. From leading threat weapons training in New Mexico, to collecting intelligence for mission planning in Saudi Arabia, to designing strategic target strikes in North Korea, to running operations at the Yakota Air Base in Japan — each assignment required her to dive headfirst into a new subject.
“Military people, I sense, get a reputation as being not particularly innovative — just being rule followers, people who take orders — but that’s not what I saw, and I don’t think that’s who I am,” Noble said. “It’s a combination of creativity, curiosity, innovation, but also incredibly hard work.”
The constant pursuit of knowledge that she acquired in the Air Force laid the foundation for Noble’s pursuits as a civilian. After leaving the Air Force in 1996, she continued to design training programs, this time for a national sales company, before becoming a full-time mom.
In Eagle County, where she moved permanently with her family in 2016, Noble found new outlets for her research and communication skills, first as program manager of the Vail Symposium and now as the public information officer for Eagle County Government. She said that she never expected to go into the military, and didn’t consider herself to be “military material,” but she found a path that made her who she is today.
“It instills an incredible work ethic in me that I don’t know that I would have gotten anywhere else,” Noble said. “It set me on this path. It’s been a windy path, no plan, but it gave me a foundation that has served me well my whole life.”
Laura Johnson: Air Force Civil Engineer, 1992-2018
Laura Johnson planned to follow her older brothers into the Air Force as a pilot, but when her eyes went bad in college and flying was taken off the table, the military still held an allure for her burgeoning career in civil engineering.
Johnson said that what drew her to the military path of civil engineering was its emphasis on environmentalism.
“At the time that I came into the Air Force, the Air Force had a big push on environmental issues,” Johnson said. “They were trying to do pollution prevention and recycling and a lot of those kinds of things, and so it was a good fit.”
Air Force engineers have a hand in all types of projects that build and maintain infrastructure on U.S. bases, including natural disaster preparedness and recovery of sites after war or severe weather events. Johnson spent more than half of her 26-year career working on bases overseas, living in Germany, Japan and South Korea and being assigned to four war-time deployments in the Middle East with years in Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“You get to see so many different areas around the world, so many different cultures,” Johnson said. “It was fun to move someplace different and experience it for a couple of years, and then you get to move somewhere else and tend to do different jobs so things don’t really ever get dull.”
Johnson was assigned to support Operation Enduring Freedom during the War on Terror. She served as squadron commander in Iraq, leading a team of 800 people and overseeing the construction of the Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar. Her team would work six or seven days a week to complete projects on strict deadlines.
“It’s amazing how your time does get filled and you’re OK with working that many days a week,” Johnson said. “You’re part of something that’s bigger than yourself. You’re part of the mission, and you’re looking towards that mission.”
Over the course of her career, Johnson rose to the rank of colonel and was put in charge of around 1,200 people as a group commander. She said that one of her favorite aspects of the job was the ability to lead diverse groups of people and oversee a population that came from a wide variety of backgrounds.
“When you go into the military, you’re going to be put in a situation and meet people from all different walks of life,” Johnson said. “There’s going to be people that come from very wealthy families, and there’s going to be people that have come from very poor families or really bad situations, growing up in really rough neighborhoods. You have to learn how to work together, which sometimes can be tough, but it brings different perspectives on how to do things. It makes the team stronger.”
When she was ready to retire, Johnson chose to return to Colorado, where she spent her first training days at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. She had always kept the beauty of the Rockies in the back of her mind and followed her friend, a fellow Air Force veteran, to Eagle County after retiring in 2018. Johnson said that the local veteran community has been a source of friendship and support, and after a career spent traveling the world she has found a place to call home.
“It’s been good to be able to stay connected to other people that have had that kind of shared military history, and it’s been a good opportunity for me to meet more local people as well, especially since I didn’t know very many people up here when I moved up here,” Johnson said. “I’m loving living here in Colorado, and I love this community.”
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