Vernice Armour was born in 1973 in Chicago, Illinois to Gaston Armour Jr. and Authurine Armour. After her parents divorced, Clarence Jackson married Authurine. Both her father and her stepfather had served in the military. Gaston Armour was a retired major in the U.S. Army Reserve, and Clarence Jackson was a former Marine Corps sergeant that served three tours in Vietnam. Her grandfather was a Montford Point Marine, the first African Americans to integrate the Marine Corps between 1942 and 1949. Raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Armour graduated from Overton High School, where she was a member of the mathematics honor society, the National Honor Society, and class vice-president.
In 1993, while attending Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), Armour decided to enlist in the U.S. Army Reserve and later entered the U.S. Army’s ROTC. Then in 1996, her last year of college, she took time off to become a Nashville police officer. It was her childhood dream to become the first black woman on the motorcycle squad. Armour graduated from MTSU in 1997. In 1998, Armour became the first African American female to serve as a police officer in Tempe, Arizona. However, while in a ROTC leadership training she saw a black woman pilot wearing an Army flight suit which stuck in her mind. After month of deliberating between becoming a police officer and pilot, she decided she could always become a cop but she would not always be able to become a pilot.
She wanted to join the toughest outfit, so she called a Marine recruiter and told them she wanted to be a combat pilot, joining as an Officer Candidate in October 1998. On December 12, 1998, Armour was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and send to flight school at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas and later to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. Armour earned her wings in July 2001 becoming the Marine Corps’ first black female pilot. She was number in her own class of twelve and number one among the last two hundred graduates. After flight school, Armour was assigned to the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California to train in the AH-1W SuperCobra. While there she continued to excel, she was named 2001 Camp Pendleton Female Athlete of the Year, twice won the Camp’s annual Strongest Warrior Competition, and was a running back for the San Diego Sunfire women’s football team.
In March 2003, she flew with HMLA-169 during the invasion of Iraq becoming America’s first African-American female combat pilot. She completed two combat tours in the Gulf. Afterwards, she was assigned to the Manpower and Reserve Affairs Equal Opportunity Branch as program liaison officer.
She decided to leaving the U.S. Marine Corps in June 2007 to begin a career as a professional speaker sharing her story and as an expert on creating breakthroughs in life.
In 2011, her book Zero to Breakthrough: The 7-Step, Battle-Tested Method for Accomplishing Goals that Matter was published
Armour has been awarded the Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
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