Major Marie T. Rossi
Hometown: Oradell, NJ.
Died: March 1st, 1991, Operation Desert Storm.
Unit: B Company, 2d Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia.
Incident: Died of injuries suffered when the CH-47 Chinook she was piloting crashed in Saudi Arabia.
Birth: Jan. 3, 1959
Death: Mar. 1, 1991
Major, United States Army and Helicopter Pilot, she was the first woman US combat commander to fly into battle when she did so in the Persian Gulf War. Born Marie Therese Rossi, she graduated from River Dell High School, in Oradell, New Jersey, and went to Dickinson College, where she graduated in 1980 with a BA in Psychology. She also took ROTC in college, and upon her graduation, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Entering the Army, she learned to fly helicopters, and by 1991, she was commanding Company B of the Second Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, 18th Aviation Brigade, a CH-47D Chinook helicopter company. At the time, she was married to CWO John Anderson Cayton, another helicopter pilot. When the Gulf War broke out, both she and her husband deployed to Saudi Arabia, where they served in different units, in accordance with Army policy to separate spouses. Her unit was tasked to fly fuel and ammunition to the rapidly advancing 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, often dropping the fuel and ammunition supplies ahead of the advancing friendly forces, deep into enemy territory. The day before the war began, she was interviewed by CNN Television, in which she talked about her role as a woman flying into the combat zone. She indicated that it was "no big deal" and that as an aviator, she "felt ready for the challenge." She and her crew were killed when their helicopter flew into an unlighted microwave relay tower in bad weather at night, while returning to their base in Saudi Arabia. In 1992, she was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: Section 8, Lot 9872, Grid CC-10.5
Marie Therese Rossi Cayton (January 3, 1959 – March 1, 1991) of Oradell, New Jersey, was a Major in the United States Army. She was the first woman in United States history to serve as an Aviation Commander during combat, and the first woman pilot in United States history to fly in combat during the Gulf War in 1991. She died when the CH-47 Chinook she was piloting crashed in Saudi Arabia, on 1 March 1991.
Marie Therese Rossi was born in Oradell, New Jersey on January 3, 1959, the third of four children born to Paul and Gertrude Rossi. Her father was a book bindery treasurer, and her mother was a secretary for a Wall Street firm. In 1976, she graduated from River Dell Regional High School and began attending Dickinson College, where she also joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Rossi graduated in 1980, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Rossi served as a CH-47 Chinook pilot with the 18th Aviation Brigade, commanding B Company, 2d Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia. Her company deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield in 1990. Rossi was interviewed by CNN prior to the ground assault by Coalition forces. She said, "Sometimes, you have to disassociate how you feel personally about the prospect of going into war and, you know, possibly see the death that's going to be out there. But personally, as an aviator and a soldier, this is the moment that everybody trains for -- that I've trained for -- so I feel ready to meet a challenge."