Balancing commitment and emotion

As special guest at Avio Aero Talks, Major Emma Palombi shared her experiences as a pilot and commander, offering exemplary ideas for women's professions but even for the atypical times we’re living.

Dec 2020

The last Avio Aero Talk of the year - a series of live online meetings with distinguished external guests and reserved for all employees - literally made us fly. And we did it with the guidance of Major Emma Palombi, Commander of the 207th Squadron of the 70th Wing in Latina.

Major Palombi is a pilot and flight instructor with bright track records in the Italian Air Force. She was one of the first women to enter the Armed Forces, then one of the first students at the Pozzuoli Academy, the first woman on an operational mission abroad and now the first woman in command of the famous 207th Squadron.

With her, we undertook a fascinating journey backwards, dwelling on the crucial moments of her career. We started from the last position she held, trying to understand why Commander Palombi’s appointment has triggered such a strong echo in the media. We discovered that "the 207th Squadron is the beating heart of the flight school at the 70th Wing in Latina, the gateway for the future pilots of the Italian and foreign Armed Forces who are also selected there, as well as trained". A delicate, complex responsibility that leaves no room for gender differences, as she reiterated herself.

A moment of the live digital event attended by the Avio Aero employees.

"Challenging experiences that gave me a lot and also many holidays have been spent away from home: these are sacrifices that we, in the Armed Forces, make as we’re aware of the commitment behind every sacrifice, serving our country and citizens"

It is a job that is a mission, balanced between commitment and emotion. A mission that took Commander Palombi a long way from home, right from the start. First to Beirut, then Afghanistan, first on the C130J aircraft and then on the Falcon 900s. "They were challenging experiences, which gave me a lot. There have been many holidays spent away from home. These are sacrifices that we, in the Armed Forces, make as we’re aware of the commitment behind every sacrifice, a service that we must provide to our country and citizens. Knowing that behind every effort there is concrete motivation, eases the sacrifice."

A key message that Emma Palombi shared, solicited by us given the particular period that we are all facing. In fact, we are at the gates of Christmas that see us all involved in a great sacrifice: giving up spending the holidays with our families. Undoubtedly, the example of our soldiers can help us better understand the deeper meaning of this deprivation.

Never before have the new generations been able to see the crucial role of the Armed Forces firsthand, as they have in recent months. Probably, they are able to better understand what it really means to talk about defense culture. The extraordinary workload handled during the pandemic, for example: medical flights, repatriations, bio-containment flights are a testament to the work that the Air Force does every day without exception, as the Major reminded us.

Major Emma Palombi on board an Aeronautica Militare fighter.

In this path, there was also detailed discussion on our guest’s most personal and intimate experience, through to stories of Emma as a child, who spent time at the base with her father, also a military pilot. It was then that her passion was born, "locked in a drawer" knowing that, at that time, there was no place for women in the Air Force. Until her senior year of high school, when the country [Italy] decided to open careers in the Armed Forces to women as well.

A fascinating story that helped us to reflect on this job: "it is a highly result-oriented, concrete activity where being a woman is neither an obstacle nor a limitation to career opportunities. On the contrary, the fact of being a mother and wife brings added value with it as this involves a personal maturity that helps provide a more complete, mature vision, even for management of the profession," said Commander Palombi.

"My advice to the new generations is to be aware," she stressed, "of the commitment that this choice brings, to continue with tenacity and conviction when honoring it. You have to know that this is a marathon, a long path that requires passion to cross the finish line." With a closing caveat: you need to learn to manage the emotional load, as you are trained to do.

Major Emma Palombi.

"The fact of being a mother and wife brings added value with it as this involves a personal maturity that helps provide a more complete, mature vision, even for management of the profession”

It is a lesson that is also fundamental in the management of family and children "when great skill in self-discipline is needed because there is no manual," as Emma Palombi reiterated, explaining how complex it is to return home in the evening, removing the clothes and thoughts of the day.

During her talk, there was also a lot about planes, so-called machines, and the difficulties that pilots encounter in missions, but not only. On this, there was no lack of appreciation for the partnership between the Air Force and the Defense industry and the enormous backstage work that takes place at military bases, in which Avio Aero is also a protagonist.

"The film is shot at the moment when the aircraft takes off and takes the mission home. But actually, before reaching the aircraft, starting it up and getting the wheels off the ground, there is a scope of technical and logistical work - both on behalf of the Air Force and its industrial partner - that allows this to happen. It is a strong, established bond."

Images in this page are courtesy of Aeronautica Militare ©2019