Married Aviators Live Their Dream of Flying
Chief Warrant Officer Chance Barden and his wife 1st Lt. Bethany Barden, air mission commanders and pilots in command for 1st Squadron, 130th Attack Recon Apache Battalion, with the North Carolina National Guard, have a moment together before Chance takes off for a night recon mission, Dec. 5, at Contingency Operating Base Basra in Iraq.

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq -- Being away from loved ones is usually one of the hardest parts of being deployed. Yet, for one married couple, being apart isn't the hardest struggle; it's watching each other take off.

Chief Warrant Officer Chance Barden and his wife 1st Lt. Bethany Barden, who both have the roles of air mission commander or pilot in command for the 1-130th Attack Recon Apache Battalion, attached with Task Force Panther here in Iraq, get to see each other every day and live in the same barracks at Contingency Operating Base Basra, but they also have to stand by as their partner leaves to perform air reconnaissance missions.

"Obviously we live together, which is a nice thing, but being pilots we're on two different schedules," said Bethany, from Highpoint N.C. "We're both PCs and AMCs, so they put us on different shifts to cover a vast majority of the different mission sets."

Being pilots is a heavy responsibility for the two North Carolina National Guard members, said Maj. Mitch Gibbs, Task Force Panther. They are accountable for the overall mission. This includes organizing flight missions, risk assessments, planning and briefings, and selecting the crew. Also, when in flight, they deal with aircraft emergencies and clear target identifications.

Bethany explains that, as an air mission commander, she oversees everything that happens in the aircraft, the lives of the crew, and the overall end result of the missions, including its failures or successes.

Typical missions for her teams are aerial and route security elements, route recon and named area of interest recon for IED attacks or previous IED attacks.

"It's a huge responsibility but it's not something you can't do," said Bethany. "You just have to put your heart into it."

And Chance agrees.

"Not only is my life at stake, so is my other seater, whether its front or back," said Chance.

"It's a very expensive aircraft and somebody else's priceless life is in your hands and that's the biggest responsibility you have." he said.

Bethany feels fortunate that they get to be deployed together even though being on different shifts doesn't allow much quality time together, she said. Since they work together at home, it is not much different.

The Bardens met in high school and became good friends. After graduation, Chance joined the Marines while Bethany continued her schooling. When he got back, they wed and now have been married for 10 years. At home, Chance restores cars and Bethany helps him out at the office and works in real estate.

"It's the same kind of dynamic, but honestly we don't get to see each other as much as people think," said Bethany. "We are best friends and that's pretty much the basis for our marriage, and because we're best friends, we don't let the deployment get in our way of being married."

Chance left the Marines to join the Army to pursue a flying career, and Bethany joined a few years later, also with the dream of flying. They both went to flight school in 2006 and graduated a month apart in 2007.

When asked what they love about being pilots they both agree that there is a lot of freedom to it.

"There's just an inherit freedom in aviation. No two days are the same," said Bethany.

"You just fly up there, and it's just you, one other person and the aircraft," said Chance.

Page last updated Tue December 22nd, 2009 at 06:45