A lone soldier from the United States made history on Wednesday when she became the first American woman to complete the Israeli Air Force’s prestigious pilot course, the U.S.-based NGO Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) announced ahead of the graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Airbase in the Negev.

Boston native Lt. O., 21—a member of a small group of women who have completed the course in the past 25 years—is one of only two women out of a total of 39 current graduates who did so this week.

Lt. O., whose father had been a fighter-jet navigator in the IAF, enlisted in the IDF with no immediate family in Israel. She arrived in the country and took the IAF’s qualifying exams after a post-high school gap year that she spent backpacking through Central America.

“In addition to making history, it’s important to remember that Lt. O. was not obligated to serve in the IDF, but chose to become a lone soldier in order to protect Israel. Lt. O. demonstrates how one person can secure a future for the broader Jewish community. From all of us in Boston, mazel tov and thank you—we are so proud!” said FIDF New England executive director Luba Loewenberg.

FIDF describes itself as an organization that “provides guidance and support to lone soldiers from all over the world, including flights to visit family and friends in their countries of origin; a 24-hour call center for soldiers and their parents; grants and financial assistance; holiday gift packages and vouchers; Shabbat and holiday meals; social networks and gatherings for soldiers and parents; post-service scholarships to those eligible; recreation days; and visits to soldiers’ homes throughout Israel.”

According to FIDF, there are currently about 1,000 lone soldiers from the United States serving in the Israeli military.


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