US National Guard Aviator Protects Skies And Streets
EASTOVER, S.C., USA — When Army 1st Lt. Jenna Pitcher, an AH-64D Apache helicopter pilot, isn’t conducting aerial missions for the South Carolina Army National Guard, she’s patrolling the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, as a police officer.
Pitcher is the commander of Delta Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment.
“There’s a lot of overlap between being a police officer and an Apache pilot in the Army,” she said. “In both roles, your life and the lives of others depend on your situational awareness, proficiency and knowledge. Being an officer in the Army and a police officer reminds me daily to strive to be truly selfless.”
Balancing Civilian, Military Obligations
Balancing civilian obligations and military commitments is a constant challenge National Guard members face. Pitcher said. It takes a lot of motivation to stay proficient as a leader and an aviator, and to study the required manuals, she said.
However, serving in the National Guard enables Pitcher to be part of something bigger than herself, she said, and also provides an opportunity to pursue her passion for flying.
Pitcher said she’s served in the South Carolina National Guard for seven years, beginning her career as a carpentry and masonry specialist with the 122nd Engineer Battalion, 1221st Engineer Company. She explained that she did not have much exposure to the military while growing up and decided to join the National Guard to stay in close proximity with her family. Her older brother’s decision to serve impacted her decision to join as well, she said, and also contributed to the career path she chose.
“My older brother is in the Army. He was a huge influence in deciding to be an Apache pilot,” Pitcher said. “He is an infantryman, and our job as Apache pilots is to protect and assist the ground forces.”
Pitcher has always found helicopters to be fascinating, she said, and knew it would be a challenging and rewarding career path to follow. She explained that on any given day she could be flying treetop-level over Fort Jackson, South Carolina, or landing on pinnacles at 12,500 feet in Colorado.
‘I Am Never Bored’
“I enjoy the variety of flying the Apache,” she said. “My favorite part of being in the military is that it doesn’t feel like a job. I enjoy being around my colleagues and there is always so much happening at one time I can honestly say I am never bored or looking for something to do.”
Pitcher has made a favorable impression on soldiers who have served with her.
“1st Lt. Pitcher has accomplished many things throughout her career as an aviator,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Deborah Glenn, the aviation mission survivability officer for Bravo Company, 1-151st ARB, and a fellow AH-64D Apache pilot. “She is the first female company commander we have had. And, she recently got signed off as an air mission commander — a really great accomplishment.”
An air mission commander is the pilot in charge when multiple aircraft are conducting a mission. Pitcher completed the training in January, which included a week of classroom instruction and training on aircraft simulators. The simulator training provides pilots the opportunity to make mistakes in a controlled environment.
Pitcher attributes her success her fellow citizen-soldiers.
“I’m surrounded by very knowledgeable and motivated soldiers that schedule and conduct aircraft maintenance, troubleshoot issues and arm the aircraft with munitions,” Pitcher said. “They keep the fleet airworthy and are critical to the Apache’s mission success.”
Pitcher noted she’ll serve in the South Carolina National Guard for as long as she can, all while balancing her Guard service with a civilian career.
“Pursue your goals with gusto,” she said. “Be focused, vocal and make moves to achieve your goals. And, with enough persistence, it will happen.”
[Source: By Army Capt. Jessica Donnelly/59th Aviation Troop Command/US DoD-Media Relations]
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