NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A Nacogdoches woman is the third generation in her family to play a significant role in military special operations.
Airman Mary Howe is an aerial gunner with the U.S. Air Force's 4th Special Operations Squadron, a job for few women. However, military service runs in her blood.
Howe is enjoying a bit of R & R with her childhood pets. Her family's Nacogdoches home is where the 20 year old grew up around a history of army service.
"My grandfather founded Delta Force, and he was involved in Desert One which kind of led to the building of how special operations works today," Mary Howe said. "My dad was a Delta Force operator. My mom was a quartermaster in the Army, and she was a major in the Reserves."
So how did this once-shy girl grow up to be one of the very few women to serve in the Air Force's 4th Special Operations Squadron as an aerial gunner?
"I think I always knew I wanted to be in Special Operations just because of the mission that they hold especially with my family background and everything," Mary Howe said. "Gunships really played a big role in watching over people like my family."
It's the same sort of protection her father, Paul Howe, received during missions, including one in Somalia, widely known through the book, "Blackhawk Down." Tradition and pride give Mary Howe the grit she needs in a gunship.
"Gunners are responsible for pre-flighting our aircraft, making sure all the systems and our weapons are going to work when we get into the air," Mary Howe said. Ammo uploads, uploading for the 40 and 105."
This military family knows the patriarch, Col. Charles Beckwith would be proud.
"He would have been so proud of Mary just to do what she, the patriotism, carrying on his legacy of patriotism," Connie Howe said.
But how far should that patriotism go in Howe mind?
"I think it's great they have these roles now open to women, but the thing they really need to keep is the standard they have in place because those standards were put in place to make sure people survive in combat, and if you lower those, people are going to die," Mary Howe said.
This Nacogdoches native who is now serving her country doesn't take this sense of duty lightly. Mary Howe is looking forward to her first overseas deployment. Currently, she is stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida.