Erica Courtney was 19 and bored at college when she told her friends at the beach one day that she might go into the military. After talking to a recruiter for four hours, Courtney enlisted and was stationed in Germany as a military police officer in 1991.
Since then, the Half Moon Bay resident has served in many capacities in the Army, started her own business, earned a master’s degree and, most recently, was appointed to serve on the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls in California.
“I’m honored and humbled to be in this position,” she said. “Throughout my whole life, I’ve believed in service to others.”
When Courtney was stationed in New Jersey after her time in Germany, she wanted to become an officer. She attended the University of Hawaii where she graduated first in her class.
“I thought, ‘the world is my oyster,’” she said. “I chose aviation and went to flight school.”
The cavalry had recently opened to women and Courtney wanted to join. When she arrived for training, one instructor said he wouldn’t train her because she was a woman, and it was difficult at times to garner the respect of others. But her reputation spread as a strong and capable pilot.
“You want to be one of the boys,” she said. “But you are different. I never lost my femininity. ... I am who I am. If you’re disingenuous, people will know.”
Courtney also met her husband, Chris Courtney, in flight school when they were paired up as students together.
“Obviously, I’m biased because she’s my wife,” Chris Courtney said. “But she’s just passionate about helping others, with a focus on veterans and women. Her experiences as a girl in the military really helped shape that passion today.”
She served as an aeroscout pilot for 11 years as part of the first group of women to fly combat arms missions with the cavalry.
“She really has no fear — no fear to stand up, no fear to raise her hand,” friend Julie Graff said.
The opportunity to serve on the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls in California is not entirely an unfamiliar role for Courtney. She has advocated for women and girls through her years of work on the board of Women Impacting Public Policy, the National Association of Women in Real Estate Business’ Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council and as a gender adviser at the Pentagon.
“She’s a natural fit for the job,” her friend Amy Ramsey said. “(She’s) been working for years advancing women’s issues both in the public realm and in the government. I think she’s inspiring. I think she gives other young women a role model, somebody to look up to.”