by Jess Clackum
Major Krysta Doran, a 2005 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, grew up a farmer’s daughter in Visalia, California, a city situated in the agricultural area of San Joaquin Valley about 190 miles north of Los Angeles. While not from a military family, she became fascinated with the idea of flying at a young age and so she joined the Academy right out of high school.
“Honestly, I woke up one day and thought 'I think I want to be a pilot.' " I am from an agriculturally dense part of California and my family is 3rd generation farmers so I thought I would find myself in the family business. Early my junior year of high school I realized I wanted to do something more adventurous and pilot just seemed like the perfect fit. My career counselor steered me in the direction of the Air Force Academy since what a better way to learn to fly than for free?
Luckily I enjoy flying because I made this decision having never even been in an airplane. But once I had been, I was hooked. I've never looked back and have loved every minute in the air. I very much identify with the Leonardo da Vinci quote: "For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return." Along my journey was when I learned about the WASP and their amazing sacrifices and contributions to aviation.”
For five years, Major Doran flew the C-130 Hercules out of Pope Air Force Base, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She deployed four times to the Middle East, twice as a co-pilot, mission planner and aircraft commander. In addition to being responsible for the lives and safety of her crewmembers, she accomplished a combination of airlift, airdrop and humanitarian missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Currently she flies the T-6 and instructs Combat Systems Officers in Pensacola.
In her household, flying is a family affair. Major Doran met her husband, a fellow pilot who flies the MH-60S in the United States Navy, while they were going through joint training in Corpus Christi, Texas. “He is the greatest support system I have,” she says. “He had a great teacher...his mother, who is a retired Air Force E-9. Although she was in the medical field, she was also a female military pioneer in her own right.”
She believes strongly in the importance of young girls having role models and it amazes her how so many people have no idea about the women who flew in years past. “Even in 2015 going to air shows people were not aware that women flew in combat let alone flew military planes at all. How are little girls supposed to know they can be pilots if their parents don't even know?” She and her women aviator friends are determined to educate the younger generations.
With a tremendous admiration and respect for the contributions and sacrifices of the WASP, Major Doran knows full well that they paved the way for her and for all women to fly.
“I am so thankful that I was aware of these ladies when I was younger and how they were pioneers for the rest of us or I probably would not be a pilot today. Knowing others had gone before me definitely gave me the confidence and motivation to get through pilot training. I was lucky that I had such great instructors and classmates going through pilot training; even though I was the only girl in my class, I never felt like I didn't belong. I'm sure that was not the case for the WASPs and I admire their courage and tenacity. I was lucky enough when I was a college sophomore to get to meet a group of them. They were the most fascinating and feisty group of ladies I had ever met.”
Thank you Major Doran for your service to our country, for helping us preserve the WASP legacy and for inspiring the younger generations!