Major Cherish Krutil, Combat Pilot & USAF Veteran: “Follow Your Heart and Do What You Love.”

by Jess Clackum

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Major Krutil enjoyed outdoor sports, and played volleyball and ran track in high school. She excelled in academics and was a member of the National Honor Society.  Her interest in aviation began at a young age. When she was a teenager, she attended the annual Cleveland National Air Shows.

“I can remember leaving the airshow filled with excitement and I knew that's what I wanted to do.  There was nothing else that compared to watching those planes flying around, and listening to the sound of them pass overhead.  Although it has been years since I have been to that air show, it is the birthplace of my love of aviation.”

After high school, Krutil attended Wright State University and studied Business Management. While there, she began pursuit of her aviation career by joining the Air Force ROTC. While a part of ROTC, she acquired a strong sense of country and what it means to be in the military.  She became friendly with a number of her fellow cadets who had family members stationed at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force. Not having come from a military family herself, when she learned the experiences of her military-brat cadet friends, she was made aware of the vast contrast in upbringing between military and non-military lifestyles. Through these lessons, she gained a great deal of respect for the sacrifices of military families.

Krutil was commissioned a Second Lieutenant the day she graduated from college in 1997. The ceremony was held at the Wright Brothers Memorial, a quiet and serene place where Krutil would go often during her college days when she sought peace and serenity---where she often reflected on the past and the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers and how they changed the world---and ultimately her life.

“To me, it was the perfect place to go and dream and yet reflect on the past and what Orville and Wilbur did so many years ago.  I felt so lucky to have had the opportunity to go to such a wonderful place, so often, and to also have been commissioned into the USAF there.”

Krutil completed Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (JSUPT) in 1999, the only woman in her class. During that time, she flew the T-37 Tweet and T-1 Jayhawk.

The Cessna T-37 Tweet and T-1A Jayhawk. The T-37 is a small, twin-engined jet trainer-attack type aircraft used as a primary trainer in the Air Force. The T-1 Jayhawk is an advanced trainer for airlift and tanker pilots.

The Cessna T-37 Tweet and T-1A Jayhawk. The T-37 is a small, twin-engined jet trainer-attack type aircraft used as a primary trainer in the Air Force. The T-1 Jayhawk is an advanced trainer for airlift and tanker pilots.

After pilot training, she was stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan where she flew the C-9 Nightingale (Aerovac) all over the Pacific, including the tiny islands between Japan and Hawaii. She notes that a trip to Iwo Jima was a rather solemn experience. 

“While I was flying C-9s at Yokota, I flew to Iwo Jima a few times.  I had the rare opportunity to explore the island, and stand at the top of Mt. Suribachi.  As I stood on top, looking down at the tiny island and the beaches, I had this huge sense of sadness and my heart became heavy. It is one thing to read in textbooks, the battles that took place there but it is a quite different experience to be present in a place where so many men lost their lives.”

The McDonnell Douglas C-9 is a military version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 airliner. It was produced as the C-9A Nightingale for the United States Air Force, and the C-9B Skytrain II for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

The McDonnell Douglas C-9 is a military version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 airliner. It was produced as the C-9A Nightingale for the United States Air Force, and the C-9B Skytrain II for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

After completing her tour in Japan, Major Krutil relocated to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina where she served as an instructor pilot and flew the C-130E. A pilot with over 500 combat hours, Major Krutil deployed several times to the Middle East as a combat pilot in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  

USAF Lockheed C130-E Hercules (Photo credit: Carsten Gurk, Planespotters.net)

USAF Lockheed C130-E Hercules (Photo credit: Carsten Gurk, Planespotters.net)

Krutil was on standby on September 11, 2001. She recalls, “Due to time zone differences, the attack on the US happened during the night.  I was unaware of this until after I had gotten up in the morning.  I called in to see if there was the chance we might be going somewhere that day, just to get a heads up on the day.  I was informed to turn on my TV and that the FAA had cancelled all flying.  However, due to an urgent patient who needed to get to Guam, we still had a mission to do.  All flying had ceased from Yokota AB.  It took all day to get security clearances, and clearances to fly.  That night, we took off from Yokota to go to Guam.  It was the quietest, most eerie night I've ever flown. No other aircraft, no radio traffic, just silence.  The approximately three hour flight seemed to take forever.  I still get goosebumps today just thinking about it.  Especially knowing I am one of very few Americans who flew directly after the attacks.”

Flying is a family affair as Major Krutil’s husband Clarke, whom she met while working at the Combined Air Ops Center (CAOC) in Al Udeid, is a former C-130J pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force. When she was reassigned to the UK in 2005 as an exchange pilot and flew C-130K’s with the Brits out of RAF Lyneham, flying all over the UK, Europe and Africa, Clarke wound up stationed there too---also as an exchange pilot. The two fell in love and when he had just a year left in the UK and Krutil was faced with an important decision---relocate to Little Rock Air Force Base as an instructor or separate from the Air Force, she chose to leave the service she loved. She and her husband were married in a castle in England and now live happily in Perth, Australia with two wonderful children.

Cherish, Clarke & family. (Photo credit: Cherish Krutil)

Cherish, Clarke & family. (Photo credit: Cherish Krutil)

For the last five years, Krutil has worked for Jacobs Australia, CAE, and IDAT in the area of aviation training/development/design.  She is also a pilot studies lecturer at Polytechnic West and a business owner (Independent Consultant for Rodan and Fields).  While she is now a dual citizen of both the United States and Australia, she strives to connect the cultures. She will be a founding member of the newly formed Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Australia, regularly participates in ANZAC ceremonies to commemorate the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps in April each year who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and actively participates in US Memorial Services in Perth and other activities.

Cherish Krutil with the C-9. (Photo credit: Cherish Krutil)

Cherish Krutil with the C-9. (Photo credit: Cherish Krutil)

Krutil is indebted to the WASP for their service. She says, “The fact that these women were flying is a testament to how much they loved flying.  No honors, no recognition, nothing.  Most military members do not join the military for recognition or honors, but do it for the country.  You cannot sign on a dotted line, which includes the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice, if you do not love the country.  

I am in awe of what they accomplished.  It's women like them who inspired me to go on the journey I chose.  I can wholeheartedly understand the love and passion for flying an airplane.  These women did something well before their time, but if they hadn't they would not have paved the way for someone like myself.  I can only be humbled in their presence and of their accomplishments.  They deserve all the honors the men received, plus some! It is not only them who sacrificed during their journey, but their friends and families too.  I am sure they had some support, but at the same time, they were met with resistance and skepticism from many.  I can only say "thank you" to the WASPs.  It brings tears to my eyes to know how hard their journey was, as although mine was not easy, it was definitely easier due to the barriers the WASPs broke.  Having said that, I can also appreciate how full of love and passion runs through their veins when they were flying.  There is no other feeling like it in the world.  It will never go away and for those who have it in them, they will always be looking up to the sky.”

Major Krutil uses the lessons she has learned from the WASP combined with her own experiences to teach her children valuable lessons about life. “I hope that my past experiences can show my kids that you can be whatever you want to be.  Follow your heart and do what you love.  Don't worry about what other people say.  I hope this rings true for both of my kids, but especially for my daughter. I hope I can be a small inspiration to them, just as the WASP were a HUGE inspiration to me.”

We appreciate Major Krutil’s service to our country and her devotion to teaching her children that they can live their dreams. The younger generation will someday lead the world and we all want them to believe anything is possible!