From Fort Riley Post: Female Apache pilot 1 of less than 20 in aviation brigade
Although Chief Warrant
Officer 2 Laura Tanski only officially slipped the bonds of earth as an
Army aviator two years ago, the young woman from Michigan has been
living in the clouds for most of her life. “For as long as I can
remember, my room was filled with airplanes and helicopters,” said
Tanski, a pilot with the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
“I have always loved aviation, and I knew since I was a kid that I was
going to fly.”
Tanski’s route to the skies
above Fort Riley began in her hometown of Dearborn Heights, Mich., long
before she was really even old enough to ride a bike, much less pilot a
“We were always attending
air shows or visiting the air museum,” said Patricia Tanski, Laura’s
mother. “Her passion for flying just grew and grew.”
While in high school, Laura
got her first taste of flight during flying lessons at a local airport.
That quick taste, which included a rather harrowing solo flight in a
snow storm, left the young pilot hooked.
“I am fascinated by the
fact that a huge machine like a plane or a helicopter can actually fly,”
she said. “I wanted to be a part of that.”
After a short tour with the
Air Force and a deployment to Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division as
an Army air traffic controller, Laura said she decided it was time she
stopped managing aircraft from the ground. She put in her paperwork to
attend flight school and was selected in early 2008.
“The day I got selected for
flight school was the best day of my life,” she said. “I just kept
looking at that selection list on the computer – I had to double and
triple check it to make sure I was seeing things right.”
Laura spent two years
learning how to fly at Fort Rucker, Ala. The young aviator said the
flying part came easy in the early days of flight school – she was, in
fact, one of the first students to “solo” in her class. When the time
came for Laura to select her “advanced aircraft,” she had her heart set
on one, and only one, airframe – the AH-64 Apache helicopter, one of the
Army’s most lethal pieces of equipment.
“My intent has always been
to get as close into the battle as possible, and I knew that the Apache
was always right there in every mission,” she said.
Laura’s mother said she was
not surprised her daughter selected the Apache – she would have been
more surprised if her little girl hadn’t selected the high-tech
“Laura has always welcomed a
challenge, so it was no surprise that she would choose the most
challenging and complex helicopter,” she said.
When she began the Apache
helicopter block of instruction, Laura was the only female in her class.
Today, she is one of just four Apache pilots in her battalion and one
of less than 20 female helicopter pilots who call the CAB home.
Being a member of such a
small group has never made much of a difference to Laura, however. To
her, there is no difference between the Soldiers to her left and right
and the big brother who tore up and down the roads of Dearborn playing
street hockey with his little sister, she said.
“Having an older brother
really prepared me for life in this unit and in the Army,” she said.
“All the Soldiers here are just like brothers to me. We play jokes on
each other and have a good time, but we work hard, too. Our company is
very close; it really is like a Family down here.”
Now edging toward 300 total
flight hours, including 80 combat flight hours, Laura said she is
looking forward to her future in Army aviation.
“I want to become an
instructor pilot,” she said. “I had some fantastic instructors while I
was at Fort Rucker, and I want to be able to teach others, just like
those great IPs taught me.”
Laura also has a few things
to teach her fellow female Soldiers who are blazing their own paths in
fields typically dominated by their male counterparts.
“Never give up, no matter who says you can’t do it,” she said. “If you want it, if this is your dream, go for it.”
Her daughter’s dedication
to excellence and never ending pursuit of her dream has made Patricia
quite proud of a little girl, who used to save her allowance so she
could buy rocket kits and host launch parties in the backyard.
“I feel my daughter is not
only a role model for her Family, especially her nieces, but for every
woman who has a goal that she is working to accomplish,” Patricia said.
“Even I continue to be inspired by my daughter every day.”
By Mollie Miller 1st Inf. Div. Public Affairs
Mollie Miller | 1ST INF. DIV.Chief
Warrant Officer 2 Laura Tanski, CAB, pauses for a photo in front of her
Apache Block III helicopter Aug. 16 at Marshall Army Airfield. Tanski
is one of less than 20 female Army aviators who fly for the CAB.