NOLANVILLE — Marcy Ng changed history in the late 1970s and she didn’t even realize she was doing it at the time.
Ng grew up in Missouri and was raised by her grandparents. She joined the Army ROTC in her second semester of college at the University of Wisconsin and received her commission in 1978. While at the ROTC advanced camp, she excelled as the No. 1 cadet and an instructor encouraged her to go to flight school.
“I’ve always liked a challenge,” Ng said.
When she arrived at flight school, a civilian mail clerk said, “You are the first one of you that I have seen.” Ng said the clerk did not mean anything by the comment, but it had come to the attention of the instructors and personnel at the flight school that Ng was on her way to being the first black female helicopter pilot in the Army.
A reporter learned of her story and wanted to publish it, but the story was halted by one of Ng’s instructors who wanted her to make it through the course on her own attributes and not because of a quota that had to be met.
“It was one of the best things they could have done for me. It provided me the opportunity to be accepted by my peers for who I was and my capability,” Ng said.
Once she graduated from flight school, the story was published and Ng had made her mark on history. Later, Ng learned that she was not only the Army’s first black female helicopter pilot, but the nation’s first black woman military aviator. Ng trained on the TH 55 and eventually flew UH-1 Huey helicopters.
“I had found where God wanted me to be and I let Him break the door open,” Ng said. During her military career, Ng served in Panama, Macedonia, Korea, Germany, and several locations in the U.S. She served 22 years in the Army and retired in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel. Her last assignment was with 13th Sustainment Command at Fort Hood.
One of the most challenging times was during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Highlights for Ng during her military career included helping soldiers realize and achieve their potential when they had lost confidence in themselves. Ng learned this firsthand at the crucible of being the first woman and first African-American in her first aviation assignment. There, Ng did encounter discrimination and never realized the full impact of that scope until many years later.
“Life is not always fair. Sometimes you are thrown lemons, whether intentionally or accidentally. What is important is what you do with these lemons,” she said. “You can suck on them all your life and remain sour yourself, or you can learn to make lemonade. I reached a point in my life when I chose to finally let God teach me how to make lemonade.”