STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. --
“Her mighty 109th Airlift Wing provides support for Science Exploration. Flying gives her adventure and pride serving her glorious Nation. Air Force Amanda is a Navigator in the ‘Skibird’, the Air Force’s coolest plane! Her navigation skills help fly through dangerous and challenging terrain.” - Air Force Amanda: Adventure in Antarctica
Air Force Amanda – the storybook character version of Maj. Amanda Coonradt of the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing – came to life in December 2015 while Coonradt was supporting U.S. science research in Antarctica.
Her daughter, Amelia, was just 7 months old, and Coonradt wanted to explain to her why her mom was 9,500 miles away from Grafton, New York, where Amelia was.
So she decided to write a book to not only make her feel closer to her daughter back home but to also help other children of the 109th understand why the mission that took their parents to the other side of the world was so important.
“I made it a goal of mine during my quiet time while I was on the ice and missing her,” Coonradt explained.
“I’d go to the library or write in my room and try to get inspired to get the ball rolling. I wrote about three-quarters of it while I was on the ice that year,” she said.
Now Coonradt, a navigator for the LC-130 “Skibird” planes the 109th flies to the Antarctic, the Arctic and Greenland, is sharing the adventure of Air Force Amanda with children everywhere through “Air Force Amanda: Adventure in Antarctica.”
She envisions the self-published book as the first in a series.
“Since I had Amelia, I’m always on the lookout for books about military parents or a military female parent who deploys or does exciting things,” Coonradt said.
“I had a hard time finding that. I don’t really see a lot of very specific mission-orientated books especially with female flyers. That’s when I decided I really want to get this out there,” she said. “I thought it might benefit my military brothers and sisters who do this mission year after year. And sometimes it’s hard to explain to their loved ones what they’re doing when they deploy.”
Along with being a navigator, Coonradt holds a bachelor’s degree in childhood education and a master’s degree in education and literacy. Her goal when she first enlisted with the 109th in 2000 was to obtain her bachelor’s degree and become a teacher.
As she got more exposure to the military, she found an interest in flying and her priorities changed; her new goal was to become a navigator. She got her commission in 2007.
In April of 2015, Coonradt and her husband, Russ, had their daughter, Amelia.
Coonradt began writing the book while she was deployed to Antarctica in December of 2015 – her first time deployed to the ice since her daughter was born.
“I knew (deploying) was going to be a huge hardship, but it was something that Russ and I talked about even before we tried for children - that this was going to be part of our lifestyle,” she said.
The book discusses the history, science, animals and landscape of Antarctica from the perspective of a female LC-130 navigator.
Coonradt needed to find someone who would bring her words to life through illustration. Through online research, she was able to find Julio Rodriguez. She sent pictures of herself, the aircraft and other images to help him illustrate her story.
The next step was to get the book published.
“I wasn’t sure how to be published – so I started digging deeper,” she said. After a lot of online research, she discovered the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and was able to find the tools and resources needed to self-publish her book.
Coonradt self-published the book through Create Space, an Amazon company, and released it June 10. She has plans for an “Air Force Amanda” adventure series.
"I want to educate and empower! I have joined my love for education and my profession as an Air Force aviator by bringing to life ‘Air Force Amanda’s’ adventure series,” she said.
“I might go into a little bit more detail about what the navigator really does on the airplane, with plotting and mission planning and fuel planning,” Coonradt said.
“I absolutely wrote this for Amelia and any future children we may have. If it’s not successful, that’s fine. The success for me is that I’ve completed this goal, and I have this for her.”
“This was my first try and there were definitely some lessons learned. I’d like to do one about New Zealand, Greenland, United States – something fun, I don’t really know yet,” Coonradt said. “We’ll see where my imagination goes and what I’m able to do.”
“Thank you for flying with Air Force Amanda today. You too can find pride and adventure in your own special way! Adventure can be found through the world, anywhere. It’s up to you to reach for the stars. Try it, it’s a dare!” - Air Force Amanda: Adventure in Antarctica