Reina Pennington, PhD, teaches military and Russian history at Norwich University, the nation's oldest private military college. Born in Kansas, Pennington lived a peripatetic life in fifteen states and traveled in a dozen foreign countries before settling in Vermont. A former Air Force intelligence officer, she served as a Soviet analyst with F-4 and F-16 fighter squadrons, the Aggressor Squadrons at the USAF Fighter Weapons School, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Alaskan Air Command. Her primary research interest is Soviet military history, especially women in military history and aviation history. Her publications include Wings, Women and War: Soviet Airwomen in World War II Combat and Amazons to Fighter Pilots: A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women, as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. She is presently working on a new book, What Russia Can Teach Us About War. Pennington has received three awards for outstanding teaching.


Reina Pennington is a Charles A. Dana professor at Norwich University, where she teaches military, Russian, and European history. Her degrees include a BA with honors in Soviet Area Studies, a Masters and PhD in History, and a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. She has published in numerous academic and popular journals and has written many book chapters on Soviet aviation history and women’s military history.

Pennington’s first book was Wings, Women and War: Soviet Airwomen in World War II Combat. Her second book, Amazons to Fighter Pilots: A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women is an award-winning two-volume edited collection of more than three hundred entries on women's military roles throughout history.

Her professional duties include service on the Board of Trustees for the Society for Military History, as an editor for Minerva Journal of Women and War and as a member of the Aerospace Power Journal Board of Reviewers. She served from 2003-2011 as a member of the Department of the Army Historical Advisory Committee (DAHAC), and as its Chair in 2008-2011. She has served as a Presidential Counselor for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans since 2007 and as an editor for the military history bibliographies of Oxford Bibliographies Online since 2011. She has participated in numerous national historical conferences and book talks.

Pennington is spending a sabbatical year in 2014-15 writing a new work, What Russia Can Teach Us About War.


Pennington was born in Liberal, Kansas, the daughter of Lance and Gloria Pennington. The family moved almost every year. As a child her main interest was science; she first wanted to be a paleontologist, then (under the influence of Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey) an astronomer. She attended college at University of Louisville, at first as a physics major with a Russian minor. She was active in Student Government as the Academic Vice President and Director of the Louisville Free University program. The AFROTC unit enticed her with an Air Force scholarship to switch majors to Soviet Area Studies and take an Air Force commission after graduation.

After nearly a decade of military life, Pennington left the Air Force when it decided it no longer needed Soviet analysts. She worked as a conference planner in Santa Fe and a technical writer in South Carolina before entering graduate school at the University of South Carolina. Her life as a historian is her third career path, but she has always been a writer.

Pennington lives in the woods of central Vermont, where she skis in the winter and gardens in the summer. She enjoys recreational shooting, and plays piano with an amateur jazz group. A German Shepherd is her constant companion.

Military Life

Pennington attended college on an Air Force ROTC Scholarship, and was an AFROTC Distinguished Graduate. She was trained as an intelligence officer and earned a regular commission upon her promotion to the rank of captain. Pennington served more than nine years as a Soviet analyst with F-4 and F-16 fighter squadrons at Hill AFB; the Aggressor Squadrons at the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB; the Defense Intelligence Agency; and the Alaskan Air Command. She has flown in the A-4, F-4, F-5, CF-5, F-15, and F-16 (as well as a variety of helicopters, trainers, and transports) on dissimilar air combat training missions and during Red Flag exercises, and in Air Force, Navy, and Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft.

As an Air Force officer, Pennington gave intelligence briefings on Soviet fighter tactics to two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, the Aviation/Space Writers Association, the German Strategy Forum, the United States Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Navy Fighter Weapons School (“Top Gun”). While still in the Air Force, Pennington began publishing articles on Soviet and American aviation in the USAF Fighter Weapons Review and Air Force Magazine.

Is Reina "Rana"?

Yes! There was a bit of a family dispute over the spelling. My grandmother, Josefa Salazar, said she suggested the name "Reina," which means "queen." My mother said she had already heard the name, and to her it should be spelled like the name Dana. So on the birth certificate, I'm "Rana Jo Pennington." My grandmother had a fit, since "rana" in Spanish means "frog."

I didn't change the spelling for a long time; I didn't want any complications with my security clearances. But when I left the Air Force and moved to Santa Fe, I obviously didn't want to be known as "frog," and so switched to the Spanish variant.

My early publications (before 1988) have the old spelling, but everything since that time has the new spelling.

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