JOINT BASE ELMENDORF RICHARDSON, Alaska - Since early childhood,
Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Kimberly Daugherty has admired service
members, especially those who fly. The shiny wings displayed on
their uniforms instilled in her a sense of wonder. When asked what
she wanted to be when she grew up, she always responded with the
same answer: an astronaut or pilot.
Unfortunately, her dreams
were dashed when her parents told her she would never fly due to
poor eyesight. At an early age, she started wearing glasses to
correct her vision.
April 7, 2015 - Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Kimberly Daugherty, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster with the 144th Airlift Squadron, is studying to get her private pilot license with the Elmendorf Aero Club at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Daugherty endeavors to a professional pilot flying for the National Guard or for a commercial carrier. (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson photo
by David Bedard)
“My dream was already squashed by the time I was 6 years
old; I didn't know what avenues I had,” said Daugherty, now
a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster with the Alaska Air
National Guard's 249th Airlift Squadron.
disappointment, Daugherty continued a life without
graduating high school, I was working in useless jobs that
weren't going anywhere,” Daugherty said. “It was just
working to work.”
Before long, she found herself
working as a blood donor technician at a local mall. Little
did she know, her life was about change for the better.
One day, she found herself assisting a uniformed member,
who happened to be a recruiter and flight officer.
Over several visits, Daugherty said he continually spoke to
her and seemed to constantly present a professional image.
“I didn't know what officer was or enlisted was, but I
knew I could be air crew, so I said ‘Sign me up,” Daugherty
said. “As soon as I found that out, my entire perspective
A self-described “late bloomer,” Daugherty
didn't imagine herself in the military. She changed her mind
when she found out she could fly even if she didn't have
Before long, Daugherty enlisted in
the Alaska Air National Guard as a C-17 loadmaster.
“I had a friend that had just completed the training who
said ‘Is it impossible? No. Is it something you can do? Yes.
And it's worth it when you finish,'” Daugherty said.
After Basic Military Training, she attended the Basic
Loadmaster Course, which was followed by Water
Survival-Parachute Training and Survival, Evasion,
Resistance and Escape training.
“SERE training was
scary and intimidating,” Daugherty said. “It's something I
will never forget, and every time I think about a zombie
apocalypse, I think SERE training.”
months of training, Daugherty emerged as a qualified C-17
loadmaster. Upon completing her initial training, she
returned home and served a short active-duty tour for
follow-on flight training.
“[It] was stressful,
rewarding and definitely worth it,” she said. “It's not
easy, but it's worth it once you get through it. Earning my
enlisted aircrew wings, I'll never forget that day.”
Once, while on a flight, some pilots asked Daugherty why she
didn't get her real wings.
“I was insulted, but it
made me realize that I wanted to get my pilot wings,” said
To further her personal and professional
goals, Daugherty enrolled at the University of Alaska
Anchorage to pursue a commercial flying license, as well as
taking lessons at the Elmendorf Aero club to get her private
The club not only supports
recreational pursuits, but also supports the military
mission by providing training and certification requirements
for service members who are pursuing flight careers,” said
Wally Hansen, chief flight instructor at the Aero Club.
All of her training and education is in pursuit of her
goal of flying commercially or militarily.
having your private pilot license is highly recommended
because it shows perseverance,” Daugherty said.
Determined to succeed, she has remained focused and
continued her education and flight training.
watch the Guard pilots all day long, take what I learn from
them and apply it to a different aircraft,” Daugherty said.
“The fundamentals are the same.”
Daugherty, falling back on education and training makes all
“I used to be scared and nervous to
fly solo and land, but now that I completed my first solo,
I'm not scared anymore,” Daugherty said.
fear and anxiety is an integral part of the flying mission.
Daugherty said real-word experience can't be replaced by a
classroom or a book.
“Anyone can learn to fly a
plane, but it's the ones that work the best under stress
that the Air Force wants,” Daugherty said.
flight training is known to be challenging in Alaska's
environment, Daugherty's ambitions fuel her drive.
“Alaska's weather is a blessing and a curse, [when learning
to fly,]” Daugherty said. “It's taken me longer than I
wanted to, but that's nobody's fault, it's just the nature
of the beast.”
Staying positive and focused is the
only way forward.
“They say if you do what you love,
it's not work anymore,” Daugherty said. “The aero club is a
club, but it's also a family. It's cool because you surround
yourself with people who have the same passion as you.”
Daugherty said she finds inspiration from a quote by
World War I flying ace Maj. Eddie Rickenbacker.
“Aviation is proof that if given the will we have the
capacity to achieve the impossible,” the ace said.
“It's an attitude,” Daugherty said. ‘What can you do,' not
‘what can't you do?'
By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Raymond Mills
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
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