|Marie Therese Rossi-Cayton|
January 3, 1959|
Oradell, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||March 1, 1991
|Buried||Arlington National Cemetery
Section 8, Grave 9872 (Coordinates: )
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1980–91|
|Unit||18th Aviation Brigade|
|Battles/wars||Persian Gulf War|
|Spouse(s)||CWO John Anderson Cayton|
Marie Therese Rossi-Cayton (January 3, 1959 – March 1, 1991) was the first woman in American military history to serve in combat as an aviation unit commander, during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, and the first woman pilot in United States history to fly combat missions. She was killed when the CH-47 Chinook she was piloting crashed in Saudi Arabia, on March 1, 1991.
Early life and education
Rossi was born in Oradell, New Jersey on January 3, 1959, the third of four children born to Paul and Gertrude Rossi. Her father was a book bindery treasurer, and her mother was a secretary for a Wall Street firm. In 1976, she graduated from River Dell Regional High School and began attending Dickinson College, where she also joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Rossi graduated in 1980, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
|“||What I'm doing is no greater or less than the man who is flying next to me or in back of me...||”|
Rossi served as a CH-47 Chinook pilot with the 18th Aviation Brigade, commanding B Company, 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia. Her company deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield in 1990. Rossi was interviewed by CNN prior to the ground assault by Coalition forces. She said, "Sometimes, you have to disassociate how you feel personally about the prospect of going into war and, you know, possibly see the death that's going to be out there. But personally, as an aviator and a soldier, this is the moment that everybody trains for -- that I've trained for -- so I feel ready to meet a challenge."
Rossi led a flight of her company's CH-47 Chinook helicopters 50 miles (80 km) into Iraq on February 24, 1991, ferrying fuel and ammunition during the very first hours of the ground assault by the Coalition Forces. Her company would be involved in supply missions throughout the war. Speaking of her feelings as a woman flying into a combat zone, Rossi said:
"Sometimes you have to dissociate how you feel personally about the prospect of going into war and, you know, possible see the death that's going to be there. But personally, as an aviator and as a soldier, this is the moment that everybody trains for - that I've trained for - so I feel ready to meet a challenged".
She was killed when her helicopter crashed into an unlit microwave tower in Northern Saudi Arabia on March 1, 1991, the day after the ceasefire agreement. She was buried on March 11, 1991 with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 8, Grave 9872 ( ).
Rossi met fellow chopper pilot Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Anderson Cayton Sr. while assigned to the 213th Combat Aviation Company in South Korea. They were married in Savannah, GA in June 1990.
Military awards and decorations
- "Oradell Pilot Mourned.". Bergen Record. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
During her summertime days as a lifeguard in Oradell in the late 1970s, Marie Therese Rossi relished battling her male colleagues in hard-fought water polo matches, friends say."She didn't consider herself a girl playing with the guys. To Marie, everybody was just a lifeguard, and she competed that way," said Bill Molnar, her former boss at Oradell Swim Club ...
- "Marie Rossi". People. 30 May 1991. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- "Marie T. Rossi, USA, Class of 1980". Encyclopedia Dickinsonia. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
- Schubert, Frank N. Whirlwind War: The United States Army in Desert Storm. [S.l.]: Center For Military Hist, 1996. ISBN 978-0-7881-2829-5
- Pennington, Reina (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots - A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 376. ISBN 0-313-32708-4.
- Sullivan, Joseph F. "Army Pilot's Death Stuns Her New Jersey Neighbors". New York Times. newspaper article. 7 March 1991. Accessed on 30 August 2009.
- Wise Jr., James E.; Baron, Scott (2013). Women at War: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Conflicts (2011 ed.). New York: Naval Institute Press. pp. 90–92. ISBN 9781612514079. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
- "Arlington National Cemetery". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
- Kitfield, James. Prodigal Soldiers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995, 353
- "TogetherWeServed - MAJ Marie T. Rossi-Cayton". army.togetherweserved.com. Retrieved October 4, 2014.