JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- A journey begins with a single step, but for two lieutenants from the Republic of Chad air force, that first step was more than 7,100 miles from home.
While students from Chad have been attending the Defense Language Institute English Language Center here for several years, 2nd Lieutenants Ahmat Sadie and Hissein Haoua are the first women in the Chad air force to become pilots. They’re presently assigned to the General English Training (GET) course at DLIELC, which concludes in January. After that, they’ll attend the Oral Proficiency Skills for Aviation (OPSAV) course and in July, it’s off to Spartan Aviation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to learn to fly.
Second Lt. Sadie is 26 and 2nd Lt. Haoua is 20. They are both following family military traditions as their fathers served in the Chad army and are now retired.
“Our families are so proud of us,” said 2nd Lt. Haoua. “They told us to work strong and do our best.”
“The U.S. is the best country in the world for pilot training,” said 2nd Lt. Sadie, who has been in the air force five years. “I tried to become a pilot even before I joined the military, but was always told no. I kept trying. Then I finally got a call in January 2020: ‘Are you still interested in becoming a pilot or have you given up?’ I did not give up.”
While COVID-19 delayed their travel and school plans by nearly six months, it hasn’t dimmed the enthusiasm of the two lieutenants.
Becoming a pilot “was my dream when I was a child, and it’s still my dream until it’s true,” said 2nd Lt. Haoua.
The two women left Chad in September. They are both from N'Djamena, the capital, but didn’t meet until they were in the air force. Chad is a landlocked country in north-central Africa. The country’s official languages are Arabic and French, and it has a population of nearly 14 million.
One of the biggest environmental differences the women have noted between Texas and Chad is the weather.
“Here, every hour the weather changes,” said 2nd Lt. Sadie. “About the coldest it gets in Chad is 7 Celsius [44 degrees Fahrenheit]. We have lots of deserts and mountains. In our country we don’t have a lot of natural catastrophes – no earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, or floods.”
Since arriving at JBSA-Lackland, the two women have used every available opportunity to enjoy the local area, visiting La Cantera, the historic missions and Sea World. Second Lt. Sadie particularly enjoyed pumpkin carving at Halloween, a cultural event that was totally new to her.
Both officers want to make a career of the air force. They spoke of younger siblings and cousins they have inspired to follow in their footsteps.
“We want to serve our country,” said 2nd Lt. Haoua. “There are very few women pilots in our country, mostly men. We need to open the door.”