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Eagle in Flight: Kirsten Ellis

The Digest recently had the opportunity to interview Kirsten Ellis, an NC State student and U.S. Veteran. We are honored to feature her in our Veterans Day issue. Kirsten has been featured in the news before. In 2011, while stationed in Iraq, Kirsten rescued a dog and her pups near the airfield where she flew as an Air Force pilot. Watch the video.

Kirsten Ellis with Iraqi pilot Air Force pilot Kirsten Ellis with Iraqi student pilot

Diversity Digest: Kirsten, it is an honor to interview you for NC State's Diversity Digest. Where are you from and what year are you here at NC State?

Kirsten Ellis: I grew up in the military, so this is always a tough question for me to answer. I grew up mostly in Germany, but moved to Atlanta GA where I graduated from High School and it's still where my parents are today. So I guess I'd say I'm from Atlanta. My year at NC State is also a little difficult, but I am technically a Senior.

Diversity Digest: How and why did you decide to enter the military?

Kirsten Ellis: Like I said, I grew up in the Army, so I think it was always really a part of me. My dad is and always has been my hero, so I think I really just wanted to be like him. I'm a 4th generation career officer, so it's really in my blood I think. I am, however, the first female and the first Air Force Officer in my family. After joining Air Force ROTC at Mizzou, my dad swore me in as an officer in the United States Air Force in 2002.

Diversity Digest: Where and how long have you served?

Kirsten Ellis: I joined the Air Force in May 2002 and separated from Active Duty on the 30th of September, 2012. The next day, I joined the Air Force Reserves at Seymour Johnson AFB, where I'm still assigned. I've been stationed at Beale AFB in Marysville, CA, Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, TX (twice), Macdill AFB in Tampa, FL and finally, at Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, NC. I've been deployed to Diego Garcia, Guam, Ecuador, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I've been on missions all over the world, but the absolute best was spending a week in Cape Town, South Africa.

Diversity Digest: What is your major here at NC State and your future career plans?

Kirsten Ellis: Technically my major is Animal Science, but I'm really just trying to get the prerequisites in order to apply to NC State's College of Veterinary Medicine. My goal is to become a shelter vet and work with animal rescues.

Diversity Digest: What are you most proud of among your accomplishments as a U.S. veteran thus far, and what can you say to inspire those who might follow in your footsteps?

Kirsten Ellis: This seems like a loaded question. I am really proud of everything I've done in the U.S. Military. Graduating from Air Force Pilot Training was probably one of the most exciting nights of my life. As a little girl, I never thought that when I grew up that I would be flying multi-million dollar aircraft for the USAF. I fly KC-135s, which is an aerial refueling aircraft. I get to refuel other aircraft in flight, which is always pretty exciting. However, one of the things I love bragging about is a dog rescue operation I orchestrated when I deployed to Iraq. Super long story short, I ended up rescuing a dog and her 7 puppies from certain death when they were living on the flight line in Kirkuk, Iraq. It took 2 months and I had to raise $5,000 but it was well worth it. Fatoon, the mamma, lives across the street from my parents in Atlanta, so I get to go see her every time I go home.

Kirsten Ellis with pup

My advice? I was medically disqualified 3 different times from pilot training. First was eyesight, then height and finally scoliosis. But I kept fighting for what I wanted and made them recheck and recheck and finally I was medically cleared. I won my battle and got a pilot training slot. I fought for what I wanted. Now I am fighting for what I want again, which is to become a Vet. I would suggest to fight for what you want, don't take "no" for an answer and never give up. I'm 33 and looking to start a new career. So always do what makes YOU happy, not what you think will make someone else happy.

Kirsten Ellis and all other NC State Veterans, we salute you and thank you for your service!

ECD 222: Spring 2014 Peer Educator Training Course
Looking for a class to take this Spring? Check out ECD 222. This interactive 3-credit course trains students to become leaders in educating their peers about the issues of sexual and relationship violence and stalking. Upon completing the course you can apply to be a peer educator with The Movement and get paid to facilitate workshops and organize programs across campus. For more information, or to register, contact Jenn Scott, Assistant Director for Interpersonal Violence Services.
Beyond Our Borders: Reflections on Life in the Congo
NC State student Ashley Nemiro is the founder of Mamafrica, a nonprofit serving women and children impacted by the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On November 26, 2013 at 7:00PM in Riddick, Room 321, Come hear about Ashley's experiences, the lessons she's learned, and how you, too, can impact global change. Sponsored by the Women's Center and CSLEPS.