Women’s History Month: Ignoring limits

Lt. Chelsea Kalil speaks to students about aviation at Kodiak Middle School in Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 31, 2014. Kalil is a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter pilot stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Lt. Chelsea Kalil speaks to students about aviation at Kodiak Middle School in Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 31, 2014. Kalil is a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter pilot stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

“I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often-painful process.” – Diana Nyad, long-distance swimmer.

The military has long been thought of as a male-dominated workforce. While this may still hold true for the most part, women are pioneering, especially in the Coast Guard. Not only do women work alongside men on and off the water, but in the air too.

Lt. Chelsea Kalil is one such woman who continues to break those barriers by being one of the 15 percent of active duty women in the Coast Guard. As an aviator at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, Kalil is credited with saving 23 lives since graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in 2007.

Kalil, a Ledyard, Conn., native, is an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter pilot who was assigned to Naval Flight School in Pensacola, Fla., and Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., before transferring to Kodiak.

“I grew up on the water: swimming, sailing and boating,” said Kalil. “I’ve always wanted a job where I can help other people, so the Coast Guard seemed like a career where I could combine all those things.”

After applying for the Academy out of high school, she attended a year at the Naval Academy Preparatory School and started Swab Summer the following year.

Lt. Chelsea Kalil pilots a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during an Aids to Navigation flight in Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Chelsea Kalil pilots a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during an Aids to Navigation flight in Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“During a class trip to Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., during my freshman year, I realized that I was interested in aviation and applied for every class and program I could,” said Kalil. “I came to Air Station Kodiak for an internship during my senior summer and re-affirmed my love of flying and found a new goal of flying Jayhawks in Alaska.”

Kalil is a big fan of women breaking barriers in the Coast Guard, especially in aviation.

“I admire Vice Adm. Vivien S. Crea for her pioneering in aviation and the Coast Guard in general,” said Kalil. “She was the commanding officer for Air Stations Detroit and Clearwater and was the first woman from the service to serve as a presidential military aide. I had the chance to meet her at the Women in Aviation International Conference in 2009 and was very impressed.”

Following in Crea’s footsteps, Kalil has strong opinions on what makes a great leader.

“To be a strong leader in the Coast Guard, you must be honorable, tactful and compassionate,” advised Kalil. “Respect others and you will receive respect in return.”

Women who currently serve and young ladies who are interested in serving should take a look at what Kalil and women like her have accomplished. Forge ahead, ignore the limits and break barriers.

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