A warning system on Capt. Christina Hooper’s F-16 fighter jet was destroyed by a lightning strike in the first few days of the Iraq war. Courtesy photo.
By David Arkin: CNJ CORRESPONDENT
Christina Hopper has weathered some storms in her life.
One of them — when lightning struck the F-16 fighter jet she was flying in the early days of the Iraq war — has helped bring her national accolades.
Hopper is one of nine women who on Wednesday will receive awards and cash prizes from Good Housekeeping magazine.
Hopper, a captain stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, will travel to Washington, D.C., to receive a $25,000 check from the magazine, which is honoring “Women in Government.”
One other woman will receive $25,000 and seven runners-up will get $2,500.
“It’s a great honor,” Hopper said.
The magazine declared Hopper its grand prize winner, citing “her bravery that night” in the storm.
Just a few days into the Iraq war, in March 2003, lightning struck the F-16 Hopper was flying. The bolt destroyed the plane’s threat-warning system, which alerts the pilot if the jet is targeted by radar-guided anti-aircraft fire.
“I knew we were flying through thunderclouds and I knew there was potential there to be hit by lightning, but I had never been hit before,” she said. “I was kind of surprised when I saw sparks fly off the front of the jet, but I wasn’t sure if it hit us.”
The storm did not interrupt her mission.
“We were moving supplies back and forth for the troops so we went ahead and decided to continue our mission even though we had been hit,” she said. “I think it ended up being a good decision, because I was able to make it back safe and sound.”
Ellen Levine, editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping, said she was pleased to be able to honor people like Hopper, who go above and beyond the call of duty.
“Each of these women has shown courage, strength and determination, and each has changed our lives for the better by fighting for causes, which they feel deeply passionate about,” Levine said. “I am delighted that we can recognize women’s accomplishments in government.”
The nine winners, selected from more than 200 nominees, are profiled in the July issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine, which goes on sale today.
At Wednesday’s ceremony, where Hopper will be honored, Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, will give the keynote address. The ceremony will take place at the Montpelier Room in the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress.
Hopper, who arrived back in Clovis in May 2003 from her tour in Iraq, said she was looking forward to the ceremony and visiting the nation’s capital.
“I’ve never been to Washigton, D.C. before, so I’m very much looking forward to it,” she said. “We plan on seeing some of the memorials and the new World War II Memorial.”
Hopper said she might get the chance to tour the White House.
“My dad has a friend and he’s trying to set that up for us,” she said. “There’s so much to do there.”
Once Hopper gets back to Clovis, she will start preparing to move to Phoenix. She has been stationed at Cannon for six years.
In Arizona, she will serve as an instructor where she will teach new pilots how to fly F-16s.