Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour Profile

  • America’s First Black Female Combat Pilot; Former Marine & Cop;

  • Author, Zero to Breakthrough; and Consultant to Business
  • It’s all about the “Breakthrough Mentality”: using it, Vernice “Fly Girl” Armour flew from beat cop to Marine Corps pilot in just three years and on the way became the USMC’s first African American female pilot, then their first African American Female Combat Pilot. This might seem, and indeed is, a unique achievement, but after you’ve listened to Vernice and her inspirational “Zero to Breakthrough” flight-plan strategy you’ll realize that you too can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

    Vernice followed a family tradition by joining the Army Reservists and then the Army ROTC program when at Middle Tennessee State University. She took time off from her studies to join the Nashville Police Department (along the way becoming the first African American woman to join their motorcycle squad), went back to college to graduate with her BS in Physical Education and then was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. She finished flight school not only ranked first in her class of 12 but first in the last 200 trainees to graduate. She completed two tours of duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying a missile equipped attack helicopter, engaging hostile forces and providing cover for her colleagues on the ground.

    On leaving the service, Vernice established VAI Consulting and Training LLC. Using the same principles she sets out for her audiences, she created six-figure plus revenue in the first year and over $1 million in the first five. It is her belief that a Breakthrough Mentality mindset is required globally if change is going to come, and she travels the world to spread her message of personal responsibility, accountability and teamwork.

    Vernice’s book, Zero to Breakthrough tells her extraordinary life story and the philosophy behind her success. She has been invited to speak to numerous prestigious leadership conferences and Fortune 500 companies. Her story has been featured on Oprah, CNN, Tavis Smiley, NPR and many other broadcast, print and online media. She has been awarded two honorary doctorates and also been honored for her work with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Combat tests you. Being a beat cop tests you. Life tests you. Three brothers and being the only girl…tests you. Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour has been tested her whole life. A gutsy trailblazer, her resume is an impressive collection of “firsts” including America’s first Black female combat pilot. She served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine. She was also a diversity liaison officer to the Pentagon for Headquarters Marine Corps. After her military service, FlyGirl revved up her career in the private sector as an entrepreneur, consultant to business, and author of Zero to Breakthrough, The 7-Step, Battle-Tested Method for Accomplishing Goals that Matter. As a speaker, FlyGirl unleashes hard-hitting advice and amazing anecdotes from her adventures on the battlefield and in business. She helps individuals and organizations Get Gutsy and build a sustainable inner force and conviction, that results in accomplishing significant goals.

      In 2007, FlyGirl launched VAI Consulting & Training, LLC. Through that work, she helps individuals and organizations make gutsy moves and create breakthrough results by applying her “Zero to BreakthroughTM” Success Model – a mindset that helped to propel her career and kept her safe in air combat. FlyGirl regularly takes her message to premier meetings and conferences worldwide and is a Gutsy Confidence Mentor for elite senior executive Women in Tech.

      As her newest business venture, in 2020 FlyGirl started FlyGirl Construction, a General Contracting Firm in the Atlanta, GA area.

      As a Black gay woman and single mom, FlyGirl brings vital experience to her role as a member of the Forbes School of Business & Technology Board of Advisors and COMCAST/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council.

      FlyGirl has two honorary doctorates and has received numerous awards as a pioneering pilot, including honors for her commanding role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

      Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour’s story has been featured in the media including on CNN, MSNBC, The View, FOX News, Oprah Winfrey and many more, along with being a running back for the San Diego Sunfire professional women’s football team and two-time title holder of Camp Pendleton’s Strongest Warrior Competition.

      She is currently working on her next book, The Gutsy Move.

      How did it all start? Vernice was born in Chicago, IL in 1973, and moved to Memphis, TN after her parents divorced when she was three. By the age of four, she knew she wanted to be a police officer that rode a horse downtown. She received her first pony as a gift on the Christmas day following her fourth birthday and her dream quickly started to have a foundation in reality. In 1991, she graduated from John Overton High School for Creative and Performing Arts where she was very active in the music program, class vice president, a member of Mu Alpha Theta (mathematics honor society), and The National Honor Society.

      In 1993, the future combat pilot enlisted in the Army Reserves and joined the Army ROTC program while at Middle Tennessee State University. During an Army ROTC career day, the seed of becoming a pilot was planted when Vernice saw the image of a young Black female in an Army flight suit. “Now why didn’t I think of that!” was her first thought!

      In June of 1996, after a brief stint as a Nashville Sheriff’s Department correctional officer, Vernice took a break from college to accept an invitation to the Nashville Police Academy. She graduated in December 1996 – and later became the first woman of color on the Nashville Police Department’s motorcycle squad. She graduated from MTSU in December of 1997 with her B.S. in Physical Education: Emphasis in Exercise Science.

      With the aviation seed in full bloom, Vernice was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps on December 12, 1998 and on her way to flight school. When Vernice finally earned her wings in July 2001, the ambitious pilot ranked No. 1 out of both her class of 12 and of the last 200 to graduate. She made the Naval Air Station’s prestigious Commodore’s List, received the Academic Achievement Award, was the top graduate in her class, and went on to make history as the Marine Corps’ first African American female pilot.

      After flight school, Vernice was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near San Diego, CA, piloting the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter. While there she was Camp Pendleton’s “Female Athlete of the Year” and two-time titleholder in their “Strongest Warrior” Competition.

      Deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Vernice was recognized by the Department of Defense as America’s first African American female combat pilot. Vernice flew above the deserts of Iraq in her missile-equipped attack helicopter, engaging the enemy and scouting the roads from her cockpit, making sure they were safe for her fellow Marines and soldiers on the ground.

      Upon leaving the military after the completion of two tours in Iraq, Vernice launched VAI Consulting and Training, LLC. She now resides in Atlanta, GA with her daughter Noah…her gutsiest move yet.

    Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour Speaking Videos

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    Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour's Speech Descriptions

    With Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, you are “Cleared Hot”–the phrase she would hear in her role as a combat pilot which gave her permission to deploy her weaponry. Vernice’s ambition is for you to give yourself permission to execute your plans. She sets out straightforward, energizing strategies that will ensure your business takes off.

    Vernice believes that anyone can move forward, however low he or she feels they are; she calls this making a commitment to the commitment. She shows you how to get that passion in your life that will enthuse everyone around you and how, wherever you are, you can always begin the journey towards your full potential.

    As a proud African American former Diversity Officer for Headquarters Marine Core and liaison to the Pentagon, Vernice is passionate about diversity and the ways in which it can be a positive asset to any organization. She explains that diversity is normal; it is the way you manage it which will decide whether diversity becomes a problem or a solution for you. Following her lead you will be able to make every person in your company an ambassador for diversity.


    Gutsy Leaders create Gutsy Teams that make Gutsy Moves. They’re proactive – not reactive; and create the future by summoning the courage to adapt and align. Drawing on her trailblazing career as a U.S. Marine combat helicopter pilot, Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour unloads valuable lessons learned under the most stressful of circumstances – about leadership, teamwork, resilience, communication, execution, and building a culture of unshakable trust. FlyGirl’s storytelling lights up people’s imaginations – showing them new ways to achieve more than they ever thought possible.


    • How to build trust: Get everyone to step up, engage, and collaborate
    • Get personal: Learn each person’s skills, talents & hidden passions
    • Ways to unleash your diversity to strengthen the bottom line
    • Disrupt traditional metrics of success (measure more than money)
    • Learn when to plant and when to pivot in order to adapt-at-speed
    • Create a culture that attracts and retains the best talent

    TAILORED TO THESE THEMES: Leadership, Teamwork, Execution, Adapting to Change, Inspiration, Creating High Performing Culture, Improving Trust, Diversity, Accountability, Engagement


    How you react to personal and professional obstacles, adversity, and disappointment is a choice. It also determines your future. Black, female, gay, and a child of divorce, Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour learned this early in her pioneering journey from motorcycle cop to the Marines to becoming America’s first Black female combat pilot. FlyGirl’s energy rocks the house as she recounts for audiences her challenges, adventures, and ultimate triumph. Her authenticity, enthusiasm, and positivity inspire people to Get Gutsy and finally reimagine what’s possible.

    • 7-step process to shatter limiting beliefs and unleash breakthroughs
    • Replace a self-defeating “Zero Mentality” with a winning “Breakthrough Mentality”
    • How to avoid burnout and keep moving forward
    • Delay is not Denial, and to Retreat does not mean Defeat
    • Tactics to ignite your passion and design the path to your dreams

    TAILORED TO THESE THEMES: Inspiration, Positivity, Resilience, Motivation, Achieving Big Goals, Overcoming Obstacles, Empowerment, Diversity


    Helicopter pilots spring into action from where they are. They don’t need a runway. It’s their edge in battle. Marine chopper pilot Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour believes this metaphor is perfect for uncertain times where speed and agility are survival skills. FlyGirl fires up audiences with her energy and storytelling – relating hard-learned lessons with tactics for quickly adapting to the forces of change. This presentation is perfect for audiences navigating uncertainty or looking to accomplish audacious goals. FlyGirl will spark their courage and enthusiasm.


    • Recognize and take decisive action to capitalize on defining moments
    • No situation is ever perfect – gain momentum from where you are
    • The three-step plan: Decide, Commit, and Execute…at speed
    • Recognize and harness the talents of everyone around you
    • How to create a “Zero to Breakthrough” culture

    TAILORED TO THESE THEMES: Change, Inspiration, Overcoming Adversity, Innovation, Making Faster Decisions, Creating a High Performing Culture


    It’s time! This is about coming together – working to create an equitable culture for employees, stakeholders, and customers. A place where ALL can feel like they belong and are part of the team. It starts by establishing rules of engagement for civil, productive conversations that find solutions – not fault. Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour was a diversity officer for U.S. Marine Corps HQ; its liaison to the Pentagon. As a gay Black woman she brought valuable personal experience to her work. She learned: When you bring people together, their differences can result in tension…THIS IS NORMAL! How you MANAGE that diversity is the key!


    • Create a culture that values and respects all team members
    • Why it’s time to turn THE Conversation into a NEW Conversation
    • Ways to face uncomfortable issues without playing ostrich
    • How to prevent a counter-productive herd mentality
    • Set an example of civility and motivate people to respond in kind

    TAILORED TO THESE THEMES: Belonging, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Organizational Culture, Teamwork, Communication Skills

    What People are Saying about Seeing Vernice Speak

    Rating Entries

    5 I love your motivational speaking! You’re the bomb!


    “[Vernice] came into Miami in a crowd of 14,000 people she absolutely lit everybody up…I can’t wait to have her back next year.”
    – Family First Life

    “… your delivery was remarkable with a message that resonated for its passion and connection…You made us think, you made us laugh, you made us go away better for hearing your story & sharing your time…leaving us impressed as well as inspired.”
    – Inspire Medical Systems, Inc. (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “Vernice was a wonderful choice for inspirational speaker. She was on point, motivational and educational as well. I know our audience enjoyed her talk as they gave a 100% satisfaction for the event.”
    – Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC-MD, VA and DC) – (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “FlyGirl was amazing! Her energy from the start made us sit up and pay attention. She had a long line of people that wanted to talk with her after the show. Her presentation was tailored to our audience and well received. The stories that she told and the inspiration that she provided to our members is going to be something that they’ll take home with them and remember for a long, long time.”
    – Director of Communications & Marketing, National Conference of State Legislatures

    “I’m sure you get this all the time, but Vee KILLED IT. Our clients loved her so much. GOOSE BUMPS.”
    – Manager, Client Events, Paylocity (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “Vernice is doing an AWESOME JOB with presentation today. She is hitting a HOME RUN. She did a super job hitting the messages we wanted her to hit”
    – Senior event planner, Fortune 100 Insurance Company (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “WOW!!!!!! She is a-mazing – giving us an extra 15 minutes and no one is leaving the webinar – she is fabulous! Highly recommend her!”
    – Marketing Director, CBRE (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “She was outstanding!!!!!!!!!!”
    – SVP, National Governments, AECOM (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “Vernice was a homerun!! She delivered a terrific presentation, high energy and engaging. The chat was blowing up during her presentation. She was really easy to work with, too!!”
    – Executive Producer, Image Media for event with Kimberly-Clark (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “Your impact from our ASPIRE National Meeting is lasting! Your message resonated with so many and has fueled many to step forward and into their BOLD! ‘Get Gutsy’ is such an incredibly energizing tag and call to action! We thank you for bringing our Medtronic women and ASPIRE members that awesome energy, and permission to embrace their ‘gutsy’ and run with it! We have had many speakers, and I can tell you that what you brought stood out. Your authenticity, engagement and connection with the audience and your ‘real talk’ was truly a call to action.”
    – Regional Manager, Medtronic and ASPIRE chair

    “Absolutely Love Love Love her! I have seen and heard and hired many speakers in my career and Vernice is more than a speaker. I have watched her recording four times now and still she kept me engaged, made me smile every time and made me really feel good. For her to be able to do that through a recording is a magic I have never experienced with any other speaker.”
    – VP, Global Conference & Meeting Services, Berkshire Hathaway (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “Your talk was everything that I needed. I cried, laughed, yelled, jumped up and down, all from my basement while listening to you.”
    – Country Sales Manager, DLL (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “I can’t thank you enough for joining our Senior Leadership Forum and sharing your incredible energy with us! When I reflect on your messages – and there were so many great ones – what really stood out for me – especially given the past year – is ‘Acknowledge the obstacles – do not give them power.’ Pause, be curious and have the courage to overcome those obstacles, without letting them overtake you. It’s a clear, simple and relevant call to action as we continue to live in uncertain times. I was also impressed by your authenticity; despite being online, you created an experience that connected us all — and left us inspired and motivated.”
    – EVP & Chief People Officer, Element Fleet Management (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “You are engaging, thoughtful, funny and genuine. Immediately following our virtual session focused on how to actively transform a company, culture and country; C-level executives were raving about how they felt engaged the entire time and felt like they walked away with specific actionable items. The level of passion and customization of your message targeting their specific challenges and leadership level, were a pleasant surprise for many.”
    – Senior Program Manager, Evanta (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “You have been beyond an inspiration! You are so engaging, motivational, unique, and powerful. We all felt your energy through the screen.”
    – Iron Mountain (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “Your energy and message started the event off on such a high note, and we are so grateful for that! The attendees felt so empowered and motivated after listening to your story—they definitely feel gutsy now!”
    – Stanford Women in Business (VIRTUAL EVENT)

    “We have worked with many speakers over the years, and Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour is among the absolute best. She was more than efficient and capable, and truly exceeded our expectations, from the pre-event prep call, until she walked off the stage into an audience of freshly motivated and energized employees. She absorbed and addressed their challenges and concerns as if they were her own, and expertly incorporated an impressive command of our internal language, culture, and objectives. All while infusing bits of humor and contagious energy. She’s on top of her game and industry trends and understands our current corporate climate as it parallels with leadership strategies. Her step-by-step breakthrough mentality model is relatable, and what is more, executable. And we’re off to the races getting gutsy because of her. She gave my team permission to engage, and I’m excited and braced for a no limits 2018.”
    – Group Vice President, Evanta, a Gartner Company

    “The audience was absorbed by your stories of grit, determination and your lessons learned; you clearly connected with every individual as I could see how engaged people were…thank you for demonstrating that we can make dreams happen and seize the joy that awaits us in this life adventure.”
    – Managing Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Americas, UBS Investment Bank

    “It was a pleasure working with you on this event. Your professionalism and desire to deliver an outstanding presentation made a tremendous difference in the overall quality of our event. I would highly recommend you as a speaker for other organizations, particularly those who want to provide a ‘real life’ example of leadership in action.”
    – Director, Education & Program Development, Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT)

    “As the first African American female combat pilot in U.S. history, I am certain your journey has not been an easy one. I am also certain that your presentation will influence VA employees because it speaks to a commitment to succeed. Your focus, your passion, your purpose, and your positive attitude are the necessary tools to handle obstacles and help you overcome any barriers. Your message will inspire all to do his or her personal best.”
    – Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs

    “Your comments and insights were integral in making the training program kickoff beneficial to all participants. Members of the training committee received many complimentary comments about the Kickoff. In particular, a few of the comments received are:
    • ‘Vernice was so inspiring and enthusiastic. She is awesome. She made us all want to follow our passion and break out of our box!’
    • ‘Vernice was absolutely wonderful! I would highly recommend people to listen to her. You can feel the passion!’
    Again, thank you for being a part of the CAASD Support Staff Training Program Kickoff and making it an enjoyable day for the participants.”
    – Sr. Vice President & General Manager, Center for Advance Aviation System Development (CAASD)

    “Your encouragement and enthusiasm regarding leadership really has motivated the attendees and FEW to truly EXCEL. Although, your personal achievements and the powerful woman you are, are inspirational in its own right.”
    – National President, Federally Employed Women (FEW)

    “Captain Armour’s audience was truly inspired by her courage and tenacity. She is exciting to be around and really represents a woman that young women can aspire to be. Our law students were empowered by Captain Armour. She is a dynamic presence.”
    – Professor of Law and Producer, Massachusetts School of Law at Andover

    “Your program on ‘EXCELerated Passion’ was engaging, humorous and energetic and challenged us all to strive for success.”
    – Director, United States Secret Service

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    Books by Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour:

    Zero to Breakthrough

    Zero to Breakthrough
    Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour went from beat cop to combat pilot in 3 years. Within a year she found herself flying over the deserts of Iraq supporting the men and women on the ground. After serving two tours overseas, she had become America’s First African American Female Combat Pilot. When she returned home, she realized that many people want to create breakthroughs in their own lives, they just don’t know how.

    From her experiences, she created a 7-step process called the Zero to Breakthrough™ Success Plan. In this extraordinary book, she now reveals her astonishing story, and what principles formed the foundations of her unprecedented success.

    Known to most simply as “FlyGirl”, she is your battle-tested, personal coach in this unstoppable, tour de force methodology.

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