Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Area Woman Is Top-Flight Navigator

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Area Woman Is Top-Flight Navigator

Article excerpt

Among Air Mobility Command's 123,000 uniformed members stationed around the globe, only one woman has qualified to fly special operations combat missions - Capt. Celeste Sanders, a 1984 graduate of Parkway West High School.

Sanders is navigator on a C-141 Starlifter air crew trained to maneuver the huge cargo jet over hostile terrain at night with all lights out, hugging the ground to evade enemy radar.

Using night vision goggles, the crew is prepared to land troops and equipment at a totally blacked-out airfield, unload and take off - again in total darkness.

As navigator, Sanders' job is to make sure the pilots know where they're going and land in the right spot - something everyone agrees can be rather important in the dark.

Sanders said she suspected her new Air Force specialty made her mom uneasy. "She's more worried than proud at this point."

Her mother - Dorothy Zander, of Arnold - disagrees. "I realize she has to do these things," she said. But when asked if she would describe her da ughter as adventurous, Zander replied: "I prefer to say, `well trained.' "

Sanders' father, John Sanders, is a Citicorp vice president now living in New Jersey. He acknowledged that visualizing his daughter thundering through the night at treetop level worries him.

"Low, slow and dark is not my way to fly, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone's child - especially my own," he said. "Of course I worry."

But if the role of protecting freedom is important enough to require the best, he said, that would describe his daughter.

Sanders' mother said her daughter had always been a high achiever but, "Being `first' is not the most important."

When she was small, her mother recalled with a chuckle, "We thought she would be a union organizer. She always wrote things down, and made up a lot of rules."

Sanders said that her Air Force buddies laughed at her for saying so, but that part of her military success might have its roots in marching band at Parkway West. …

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