Vernice Armour knew at a young age that she wanted to become a police officer. More specifically, she wanted to join the mounted police, patrolling on horseback. Childhood dreams are magical – creating excitement and hope. They are also mysterious in that it takes years to learn whether or not they materialize.
Born in Chicago, Vernice was raised in Memphis, Tennessee. An active and athletic girl, she was also very bright. While attending Overton High School she was voted class vice-president, was a member of the mathematics honor society and the National Honor Society. Following high school, Vernice attended Middle Tennessee State University. Committed to her childhood dream, she took the Nashville Civil Servants exam. Her hopes of being accepted into that city’s police academy diminished as no response followed.
A year later, she was in Columbus, Ohio where she had accepted an internship at a local gym. After an especially long day, she drove home, her car on its last leg. A friend of Vernice had been forwarding her mail. That night she received a letter from Nashville advising that she’d been invited to take the next phase of training. Sadly, the date had already passed. Disappointed, she kept sorting through her mail and found another letter from the City of Nashville. They were offering a second date for testing – but that opportunity was scheduled for the very next day.
This was the chance to realize her lifelong ambition – Vernice wasn’t going to let anything keep her from this opportunity. Knowing her car wouldn’t survive the six-hour to Nashville, she convinced a friend to loan Vernice her car. Dismissing her exhaustion and not having eaten, she headed to Tennessee. She made the afternoon time slot, passed the test and was offered a spot at the academy.
Vernice had become a mounted police officer – but her ride was a steel horse – a motorcycle. She was the first ever black female motorcycle cop in the city. She also continued her studies at MTSU. When she saw a flyer offering a trip to New Orleans for anyone interested in joining the ROTC, Vernice jumped at the offer.
She’d never had an attraction to the armed forces even though her family had a strong military heritage. Her father had retired as a Major in the Army Reserves. Her stepfather had been a sergeant in the Marine Corp serving three tours in Vietnam. In World War II, her grandfather had been a Montford Point Marine, the first black unit in the Marine Corp.
While in New Orleans, she saw a black female wearing an Army flight suit. Vernice was enthralled. So much so that she decided she could always be a cop but may never have another chance to fly. Vernice joined the Marines because she considered them the toughest service. Her ambition was to become a combat pilot. She finished fourth in her class, but there were only two openings for jet pilots in flight school.
Instead, Vernice became a helicopter pilot, flying the AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter. She earned her wings in 2001, becoming the first African-American female aviator U. S. Marines. She served two combat tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom flying close air-support on the front lines. Her service made her the first black female combat pilot in the Corp and earned her the nickname ‘FlyGirl’.
After returning to the States, assigned to Marine Corp Headquarters, Vernice became a diversity officer and liaison to the Pentagon. She became a highly sought-after speaker, sharing her accomplishments. Eventually, demand grew so great, Vernice retired from the Marine Corp and started her own business where she is a motivational speaker, author, and teacher of leadership and ‘break-through’ principles.
Simply put, Vernice ‘FlyGirl’ Armour achieved these incredible results because she became a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands are persistent and determined
Vernice ‘FlyGirl’ Armour was determined to achieve her childhood ambition. In doing so, she overcame difficulties and obstacles which would have derailed a great many others. Being black and female presents its own set of challenges. Pursuing a career in male-dominated professions adds an even greater degree of difficulty.
It would have been easy for Vernice to get dejected as the result of any number of actions, slights or comments she endured. She refused to be affected. Instead, she remained focused on the things within her control – studying, training, learning, performing, improving. Vernice relied on determination, persistence and commitment to overcome every hurdle along her road to success.
Armour has transformed her journey into a process designed to allow companies and individuals achieve breakthroughs. She has written a book on the topic – Zero to Breakthrough: The 7-Step Battle-Tested Method for Accomplishing Goals That Matter.
Vernice Armour’s true passion is evident in each of her endeavors – be of service to others. Why become a cop? To serve others. Enlisting in the Marines? To serve others. Speaking, lecturing and teaching? Yes, serving others. Sure, there’s a great deal of self-satisfaction in each of those roles. Riding horses and motorcycles, flying the most bad ass flying machine in the toughest arm of the U.S. military, taking the stage at conferences around the world are all actions which fulfill her personal interests and needs.
It’s the combination of her why and her talents that create her brand value. Bringing that value forward in an authentic and relevant way is what makes her a fearless brand. There’s much to learn from this dynamic, high-achieving, powerhouse of a person.
Live your passion with ‘umph’ – Armour asks her audiences if they would make the same sort of jump that she did in getting to Nashville in under twelve hours to have a chance at her dream. If your answer is no, then Armour says that ‘you’re not living your passion with umph – and if not, you’re not using your gifts to their fullest potential.’
Find your purpose but do the work – It’s fantastic to have a dream and a purpose. Achieving one’s goals requires skill and talent. As Vernice Armour says – “No one is born qualified. You get qualified.” Becoming a cop was a childhood vision – doing so required her to learn and grow in high school, college, the police academy, flight school – every step of her journey. A purpose is empty without talent – talent is wasted without a purpose.
“Get gutsy. Stay gutsy.” – To accomplish anything of significance, you must get out of your comfort zone – take risks, go for the golden ring. Armour wasn’t out to achieve any of the ‘firsts’ that she’s attained. She was, however, seeking a great life filled with adventure and the opportunity to help others. Imagine how different her life would have been had she chosen to ‘stay on the couch’. Imagine how different your life can be if you get gutsy and stay gutsy.
Vernice ‘FlyGirl’ Armour exhibits every element of a fearless brand – passion, talent, relevance, authenticity. Find your passion and purpose. Grow your talent and skill. Deliver value. Be a fearless brand.