Three years ago, 500 ambitious cadets entered the very prestigious Israeli Air Force (IAF) pilot course. Only 39 will graduate in a special ceremony on the Hatzerim Airbase in the Negev, near Be’er Sheva. Among the graduates will be Boston-native Lt. O (21), one of only two women graduating from the course this year. Lt. O will become the first American woman to graduate from the IAF’s pilot course and will serve as an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Flight Engineer. Lt. O is a member of a small group of women who have completed the IAF pilot course. Women have only gained access to this prestigious IAF course in the last 25 years.

Lt. O, who serves as a Lone Soldier, one who joins the IDF with no immediate family in Israel, is the daughter of a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) New England employee. FIDF provides guidance and support to Lone Soldiers from all over the world, including flights to visit family and friends in their countries of origin; a 24-hour call center for soldiers and their parents; grants and financial assistance; holiday gift packages and vouchers; Shabbat and holiday meals; social networks and gatherings for soldiers and parents; post-service scholarships to those eligible; fun and recreation days; and soldiers’ homes throughout Israel. Currently, about 1,000 Lone Soldiers from the United States are serving in the IDF.

Like her older sister, Lt. O graduated from Brookline High School a year early. After a short gap year at 17, in which she backpacked through Central America, she went to Israel and took the IAF’s qualifying exams. Lt. O’s father was a fighter navigator in the IAF.

“In addition to making history today, it’s important to remember that Lt. O was not obligated to serve in the IDF but chose to become a Lone Soldier in order to protect Israel. Lt. O demonstrates how one person can secure a future for the broader Jewish community. From all of us in Boston, Mazel Tov and thank you – we are so proud!” said FIDF New England Executive Director Luba Loewenberg.