Major Catherine Christ, former USAF pilot: The WASP made her aviation career possible!

by Jess Clackum

Major Catherine Christ's desire to serve in the military and her interest in aviation was inspired by her father and other family members who served. As a child growing up in Grosse Ile, Michigan, she often attended air shows and enjoyed visiting the Dayton Air Museum (National Museum of the Air Force).

Christ thought flying would remain just a dream until she was accepted to the United States Air Force Academy where she studied Biology and realized that her dream of being a pilot could become a reality. After her uncle, a KC-135 boom operator organized an incentive flight for her out of MacDill Air Force Base Tampa during her freshman year at the Academy, Christ was hooked. She says, “Being there with the crew and seeing everything involved was the coolest thing and I just knew that's what I wanted to do.”

After pilot training, Christ was assigned to the 93rd Aerial Refueling Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State where she flew the KC-135. She eventually deployed six times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker refueling fighter jets in mid-air. The KC-135 was the USAF's first jet-powered refueling tanker which replaced the KC-97 Stratofreighter. Initially tasked with refueling strategic bombers, it was used extensively in the Vietnam war and later in conflicts like Operation Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighters and bombers.  

A Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker refueling fighter jets in mid-air. The KC-135 was the USAF's first jet-powered refueling tanker which replaced the KC-97 Stratofreighter. Initially tasked with refueling strategic bombers, it was used extensively in the Vietnam war and later in conflicts like Operation Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighters and bombers.  

Her final assignment was as a T-1 instructor for advanced pilot training. She separated from active duty as a Major and now serves as Admission Liaison Officer for the Air Force Academy in the USAF Reserves. Her husband Craig, whom she met at the Academy, is also a Major in the Air Force Reserves and flies the KC-135. She feels very fortunate they have had the rare opportunity to share their careers together.

"It's been amazing being able to share our career together, not many couples get to do the same thing as their spouse and it's been so cool to experience everything together, I think it gave us a great understanding of each other and it was easy to talk about the good and bad of our work days and we both knew what was going on.  I think some of my neatest memories have been hearing him on the radios while I'm flying either in pilot training or while we're deployed, it's been a really great adventure."

Sharing their careers: Majors Catherine & Craig Christ met at the Academy and married after graduation.

Sharing their careers: Majors Catherine & Craig Christ met at the Academy and married after graduation.

Christ is incredibly thankful for the opportunity she’s had to live her dream which was made possible, in large part by the courageous women pilots who came before her.

“Where would I be without the WASP and how they paved the way for myself and countless other female aviators? I was an Air Force pilot for 10+ years before setting aside my flight bag and headset for diaper bags and pacifiers.  If it hadn't been for the WASP and all the barriers they broke I wouldn't have had the opportunity to fly and serve for the Air Force in an amazing career before settling down at home with my four little kids.

Without the sacrifices of the WASP I would not have been able to have the career that I did.  Their story is long overdue in being told and I can't wait for my daughters to see how much has changed in aviation history from the time those incredible women paved the way for all of us to fly to when their mom was a pilot.”

A Family Affair: Catherine & Craig with their children. Catherine loves being a wife, mom and role model for her children!

A Family Affair: Catherine & Craig with their children. Catherine loves being a wife, mom and role model for her children!

Thank you Major Christ for your honorable service to our country and for being such a great role model to young girls everywhere!