Vanessa "Siren" Mahan
Leadership; Courage; Service Before Self; Discipline; Sexual Assault; Sexual Discrimination; Finding Gratitude; Finding Strength (physically and mentally); Transitions and Accepting Change; Health/Wellness/Fitness/Meditation; Taking Chances, Success
When I was 12 years old, my dad took me to an air show in Oshkosh, WI. This wasn’t my first airshow, but it was here that I stumbled upon a booth that would plant the seed of aviation deep within. It was a booth called “Women Fly” and it was there among the t-shirts, hats, and posters showcasing female aviators that I really saw how much women were a part of aviation, both past and present. Even years after that airshow, I didn’t realize how much that seed would actually grow into a future I never imagined possible.
I was an average little girl of divorced parents who wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up. With the help of an older sister (who made me do/try everything first), I became adventurous. However, I was still extremely shy and lacked confidence. I wasn’t very athletic/coordinated (a.k.a. I was the last kid picked in gym class) and I received good grades, but I would not be valedictorian. I took a chance on accepting a full Air Force ROTC scholarship. I participated in a program called Arnold Air Society within AFROTC that ignited my passion for serving, physical fitness, American pride, and honoring those who came before us. It was here that the aviation seed sprouted. As I faced huge obstacles in flight school, I was challenged to become mentally and emotionally stronger. While training for combat, I pushed myself to be as prepared as possible for war and I took my responsibility of dropping bombs very seriously. I was extremely hard on myself as I strived for perfection in the aircraft. As much as I have tried to control every mission and sortie, I have learned that flexibility is not only the key to air power, but also to life.
Throughout my entire adult life, I’ve been called to help and serve others. Now I feel even more compelled to share my stories and experiences to encourage others to overcome their obstacles by learning from my mistakes and victories. My hope is that I can have a positive effect on people, and inspire both men and women alike to make valuable differences in themselves and others. My tiny aviation seed has grown into an unexpected, tenacious tree and I want to share this wisdom with humanity.
At an early age Vanessa “Siren” Mahan was exposed to aviation, whether she was attending numerous air shows, flying with her dad in a borrowed Cessna, or traveling standby on commercial aircraft to go on vacations. While she had a passion for adventure and was seeking to flee the nest of home, she wasn’t sure about a career choice. She decided to take a chance. She applied for and received an Air Force ROTC scholarship to Purdue University. It was there that she fell in love with the Air Force and serving.
When 9/11 occurred in her junior year, her call to serve got stronger, but she knew she must be patient and finish school. She excelled in AFROTC, finishing at the top of her class, as a Distinguished Graduate. This earned her her first career choice…an assignment to Strike Undergraduate Navigator Training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. With hard work and extreme dedication, she again received her first choice of aircraft…the F-15E Strike Eagle.
As a Weapons System Officer (WSO) in the Strike Eagle, she would deploy in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Her primary mission would be Close Air Support (CAS), protecting joint and coalition forces from above. After two back-to-back tours in support of OEF, Siren chose an assignment flying the EA-6B with the Navy at NAS Whidbey Island where she would also be stationed with her Navy husband. Siren became the first female Air Force Prowler aircrew to be assigned to a fleet carrier squadron and spend time on the USS Stennis doing “workups” for deployment.
After having two kids and ten years of active duty flying, Siren made the difficult decision to transition to the Air Force Reserves. She currently works as an Air Operations Staff Officer at Special Operations Command Pacific in Hawaii. When she isn’t serving in the Reserves, she pursues expanding her business “Siren Strong” where she trains/coaches clients in a holistic method as a certified functional fitness and health coach. She also enjoys spending time with her husband, two kids, and golden retriever puppy “Blue” exploring her home in the Pacific Northwest.