She is the Missouri National Guards first female Apache helicopter pilot
I am in the Missouri Army National Guard and will have been for 16 years in December; 10 of those years I’ve worked full time for the National Guard. I started out enlisted for five years and then went onto Officer Candidate School and commissioned as an Aviation Officer. I am qualified in the AH-64A/D and the UH-72. I have supported several state emergency duties, including Hurricane Katrina, and I have a combat deployment to Afghanistan as an Apache pilot.
I had no idea when I started down the flight school path that I would be the first Apache pilot in the Missouri Guard. Honestly, I was just elated to have the opportunity to fly. There was a woman ahead of me in flight school, but unfortunately she didn’t get to finish.
I can say that when I graduated in 2007 and until November 2014 when I took my last flight, it was an amazing experience. I have some of the best and absolute worst memories, but I will forever cherish the opportunity.
While I was enlisted, September 11th happened and deployments started to increase significantly. I knew that it was a matter of time before I got the opportunity to deploy and when I did, I wanted it to be in a job that supported the service members on the ground. Being an Apache pilot enabled me to do that.
I have a three-year-old son. Like other parents, I had to leave him at home when I deployed for a year, when he was only a year old. Knowing that, even if I didn’t come back to him again, I would be enabling other daughters and sons to return safely to their mothers and families, made it possible for me to leave him. It made the sacrifice my son had to make more tolerable for me.
My deployment, while difficult, proved to be an amazing opportunity from which I learned to be a better officer overall, and especially a better leader. We deployed as a Battalion to three locations. I was a primary staff member of a task force element.
I was usually flying three times a week, supporting special operation missions, protecting ground convoys, route recon missions, and multi national operations among other things. I think my longest mission required eight hours actually in the cockpit, 1 flight; and that didn’t include all of the activities that occurred prior to or post flight. I remember being very happy to crawl out of that aircraft afterwards.
Now stateside, I’m flying the UH-72 Lakota, and every day I think about a way to get guns on that aircraft. :)
About the Combat Boots and High Heels: As the first female Apache pilot in the Missouri Army National Guard, I have had quite a few unique experiences, as most women can imagine. After the deployment, I also realized that there were so many needs that women soldiers and veterans have that weren’t being addressed in our historically male-focused military and veterans organizations. That being said, while I wanted to create an organization that supports women, I wanted to be completely inclusive, which is why we support all US Veterans. With the military downsizing and the war winding down (although obviously we are still very engaged in the middle east) I believed organizations such as Combat Boots and High Heels were needed more than ever!