LEGAZPI CITY: Being a mom to an eight-year-old boy is a tough job. But Major Cheryl Luna-Flores, 36, a registered nurse by profession, is no stranger
In fact, the people who know her look up to her—both figuratively and literally—since she is the country’s first and sole night flying female pilot of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Trained by a US Air Force pilot, Luna-Flores’ mission is simple: She risks her life so that others may live.
The brave female pilot has long served the country in its fight against rebels in war-torn Mindanao.
As a night vision goggle (NVG) pilot, Flores used to fly a UH-1H Huey helicopter and conduct air support missions, remove wounded soldiers from the battlefield, and
bring and extract troops during emergencies.
The Zamboanga native and mother of Prince Jorryl recalled that her toughest assignment was in Mindanao—the site of frequent skirmishes between government troops and Abu Sayyaf rebels.
In one of her missions, she said seven soldiers, including Army Corporal Jose Mario Moron, 31 of Ilawod, Camalig town and Marine junior officer 1st Lieutenant Roger Flores were killed.
“Six years in combat through night flying in Mindanao was a challenging tour of duty. We were aided with night vision to see in the dark. Our enemy may hear the sound of our helicopter but they could not see us,” Luna-Flores said.
Before entering military service, she became a military nurse. She passed the Philippine Air Force Officer Candidate School exam and trained for a year before she was assigned at Villamor Air Base for three years.
From 2003 to 2004, Luna-Flores trained as a pilot and was assigned at the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing in Mactan, Cebu. For a month, she was trained in night flying by a US Air Force pilot before becoming an NVG pilot.
From 2004 to 2010, Luna-Flores served as an NVG pilot in Mindanao. To date, she is the only NVG female pilot of the Philippine Air Force.
From her challenging night combat missions in Mindanao, Luna-Flores is now molding future pilots as an instructor at the Philippine Air Force Flying School in Fernando Airbase Air Education Training Command in Lipa City, Batangas.