by Jess Clackum
Lieutenant Commander Trier Kissell, daughter of an Air Force test pilot, has lived and breathed flying for as long as she can remember. A pilot for the last twelve years, she graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2003 and graduated flight training in 2004 specializing in the T-34C and TH-57.
In 2007, Kissell served with the HSL-45 Wolfpack in San Diego flying the SH-60B and deployed as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group (CVN-74) to the Persian Gulf. From 2008 to 2014, she served as flight instructor of the TH-57/Bell-206 helicopter in Pensacola. She left active duty for two years while continuing instructing as a Reservist and during that time she flew EMS/MEDEVAC as a civilian with the Air Evac Lifeteam in Cincinnati. In 2014, she returned to active duty and underwent training in the MH-60R.
Kissell has two loves---aviation and her family. She and her husband, a civilian aircraft mechanic have two young children.
“My decisions to leave and then rejoin Active Duty were based on a combination of family needs, a love for the service, and my complete inability to walk away from military aviation.”
Kissell’s favorite role in her military career has been that of flight instructor. She believes in the importance of mentorship.
“By far the most meaningful role I've held is flight instructor. I became passionate about my students and loved watching ‘the lightbulb’ appear in addition to sharing the joy of flying through a fresh set of eyes. I have learned countless leadership lessons along the way, the most recent of these the importance of mentorship.
There are few women who continue down my career path past the initial 10-year commitment to service. I believe it is crucial that I set an example for those following behind, and since rejoining active duty I actively seek out opportunities to engage other women in my community. I have been the recipient of profound mentorship along the way (from both men and women), and without it I would have given up on this career at the 10-year point like many of my peers.”
LCDR Kissell acknowledges the women who paved the way for her to fly and believes the WASP story is extremely important in this era of equal opportunity as more and more women attempt to prove themselves in roles traditionally filled by men.
“It's not about proving yourself. It's about service, and adding diverse qualities to our nation's fighting forces. The WASP opened those doors for us and showed the world what women can bring to the table."
"I'm thankful for these women who have paved the way. They enabled to me to assume, ‘I can do that,’ without ever asking the question, ‘Can I?’ While I was far from the first to break barriers in our profession, I find myself pushing against a different barrier of forging a career in military aviation with a husband and children in tow. These women set a standard of professionalism, dedication and motivation that I don't take lightly. Their legacy is something I strive to honor one day (and one flight) at a time.”
Like the WASP, LCDR Kissell paves the way for future generations of women. Her determination and courage is an example for girls everywhere, showing them that they too can achieve their dreams.