ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. | During a ceremony, the Ellsworth Airfield Operations Building was renamed the “Millie Rexroat Building,” on Oct. 2, 2017.
The 28th Bomb Wing dedicated the airfield operations building to Ola “Millie” Rexroat, so her legacy can live on and be remembered by all who walk through the building.
Rexroat was a member of the Women Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) corps and, after the WASP was disbanded, she went on to serve as an air traffic controller in the USAF Reserves, as a captain. A records review revealed she was the only WASP of Native American Descent.
“She never forgot that she was a Native American,” said Forest R. McDonald, son of ‘Millie’ Rexroat. “She never forgot her heritage and her native culture, it was very important to her.”
Rexroat was a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where she spent summers with her grandmother.
“Everything my mother did, it sent a message to me when I was very young,” McDonald said. “If you really want to do something, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t just because of who or what you are. It wasn’t something she ever said to me, it’s just who she was. It’s something I’ve always kept with me.”
During the unveiling, Col. John R. Edwards, commander of the 28th Bomb Wing, spoke in front of many of Rexroat’s friends and family members that were present during the ceremony.
“Capt. Ola ‘Millie’ Rexroat joined in 1944,” Edwards said. “Before flying for the WASP corps, she knew she had to support the war effort and thought the best way she could do that was applying for the WASPS, where she would learn how to fly an aircraft before she could even drive a car.”
While serving as a WASP, Rexroat towed targets behind a T-6 Texan for air-to-air gunnery and ground-to-air anti-aircraft practice for male pilots. She also transported personnel and cargo. After the WASPS disbanded, Rexroat served another ten years in the Air Force Reserves as an air traffic controller.
“It is (with) great pride that I can be here to honor ‘Millie’ Rexroat and the legacy she gave to us,” Edwards explained. “She was someone who led with inspiration, courage and dedication to the country, and is an inspiration for many Native Americans, for all Americans.”