Maj. Laney Schol: Paving the future for generations to come

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Abigail Duell

U.S. Air Force Maj. Laney “Rogue” Schol, an F-35A Lightning II instructor pilot with the 60th Fighter Squadron, is working to overcome readiness barriers in the military.  

“If I were in a room full of influential females who served before me, I would say thank you for paving the way,” said Schol. “Thank you for having the hard conversations, probably getting a lot of pushback, and yet, still pursuing your dreams.” 

Schol was introduced to the Reserve Officer Training Corp at the University of North Texas, where she was pursuing a degree in radio, TV and film.  

“I was interested in what the Air Force had to offer,” said Schol. “I was interested in having a stable job, traveling and serving my country. I’ve had many family members who’ve served in different capacities in different branches, so that kind of connection was always there and was something I wanted to explore for myself.” 

As a cadet, Schol covered the Alliance Air Show in Fort Worth, Texas. At the airshow, she had the opportunity to interview several fighter pilots and received an incentive flight in an Extra EA-300 aircraft.  

“Honestly, that flight was what solidified it for me,” said Schol. “This was a career path that I could compete for and at that moment I knew that this was what I wanted.” 

Schol graduated a few years later with her radio, TV and film degree, earning her commission. She spent her first four years as a fighter pilot flying the A-10C Thunderbolt II at Moody AFB, GA, before transitioning to the F-35 at Eglin. 

“The A-10 and the F-35 may be so incredibly different, but they are both so incredible at what they do,” said Schol. “The transition was not easy, but the lessons I learned in the A-10 translated into flying the F-35.” 

While transitioning to a new airframe may be difficult, being a female fighter pilot came with a few challenges of its own.  

“The first issue I ran into was urinating in the aircraft,” said Schol. “There was a bladder relief system, but I was never formally trained on how to use it. The second issue was the gear and the uniforms required to actually utilize the system.” 

These roadblocks propelled her into the female fitment realm where she advocated for gear and uniforms that were tailored for women in the military. As a part of this process, she participated in Sword Athena 2020. Sword Athena is a working group of volunteers from across Air Combat Command that come together to identify, tackle, and propose solutions to readiness barriers.  

“The thing that was interesting to me is that a pilot’s ability to urinate in the cockpit is a known issue,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Stephanie “Hugo” Chayrez, the program director of the 33rd Fighter Wing Aircrew Performance Team. “We just need people like Laney who are going to be there advocating and working towards a solution.” 

In the past, a temporary solution seen among pilots was tactical dehydration. This is a process in which aviators would avoid hydration hours before a flight to prevent the need to relieve themselves.  

“Laney presented to our Aircrew Performance team and asked for more subject matter expertise of how tactical dehydration affects pilot performance and how much of a safety risk it potentially is,” said Maj. Chayrez. “We had a team rallying behind her to get this across to the Air Force that we still have a really big issue. Shortly after, we were able to get briefing and debriefing capabilities surrounding urination in the cockpit so that we could begin to change the culture around it. We wound up getting it across at the global level and here at the 33rd Fighter Wing.” 

The Air Force has taken feedback and acquired three new bladder relief systems, with plans to field them this year. In the meantime, the Omni Skydrate is currently available to both male and female pilots and has gone through many iterations to best fit the needs of aviators.  

“If you’re experiencing some type of barrier and feel like you may be the only one experiencing that issue, chances are that there are many people dealing with the same thing,” said Schol. “Speaking up is incredibly important because nothing can be changed until you bring attention to what you are facing.”

While emphasizing the importance of speaking up, Schol also encourages others to embrace change.

“We must adjust to how our world is changing with time,” said Schol. “Our adversary continues to change as well as our society and military forces. We have to be able to shift to succeed in our current and future operations, which is directly impacted by how we prepare to fight and how we take care of our people right now.”

Schol continues to look at every challenge as an opportunity to adapt, learn and grow. By advocating for herself and embracing change along the way, she has paved the future for generations to come.