No military Aviation unit would be complete without its pilots. U.S. Army aviators are the fighting force behind the military's ability to eliminate the enemy and expose their weaknesses. The ground forces' operations go by with fewer complications when they have their air support on routine missions. U.S. Army First Lieutenant Christopher Hess, aviation officer, troop executive officer and maintenance platoon leader with Delta Troop, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, is a pilot of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter, conducting air reconnaissance and supporting ground forces in Afghanistan. "I've always wanted to serve my country, ever since I was a kid," said Hess. "At the end of my life, I want to be one of the few people that are able to say that I contributed something good to society. I was ready to accept the challenges and leadership that go along with it." Leadership is definitely something that Hess attained. In a maintenance troop with more than 100 personnel, he is not only the maintenance platoon leader, with a couple of dozen troopers that fall under him, but he is also the troop executive officer, charged with handling all troop business in the absence of the commander. Hess hails from Sylvania, Ohio, attended Western Michigan University, completing ROTC while there, and attained a Bachelor's Degree in Aviation Administration before being commissioned in the U.S. Army. When asked why he chose aviation, he says he always wanted to fly. "It just made sense. I've always been fascinated with aviation. I wanted to be a part of the mission and help out the ground guys." Asked about his first time flying, he responded with a huge grin, "Thoroughly exciting." With his time in school and military training, Hess has been affiliated with the military in some way for nearly seven years. He says that looking back on the past few years, he has had experiences that he would not trade. "I've had the opportunity to lead Soldiers and experience a lot of things that I wouldn't have been able to do as a civilian." Most military personnel will tell you that on a leadership level, the Army is much more difficult and more rewarding than anything else you will ever experience. Hess says that as a leader, the most challenging part of the job for him is just adapting to how much things can change in one day. When he's not flying, Hess' main tasks are tracking on the Commander's schedule, dealing with any issues that may arise within the troop, maintenance issues and personnel accounting. "The Army has different aspects, kind of like different 'hats.' Nothing is ever the same. Adapting to different scenarios that we deal with every day is demanding in itself." In his personal time, Hess enjoys working out, reading and trying to learn as much about the military as possible. "I stay pretty busy while at work, and even when I leave for the day, there's still always something going on. Not only does it make the time pass quicker, I enjoy every minute of it." At home, he says he tries to spend as much time with family as possible going skiing, mountain-biking, scuba diving, playing lacrosse and 'Ultimate Frisbee.' "I always try to play sports with my friends and family whenever I'm back at home with them." Hess says that his family is extremely supportive of his choices. He has a cousin who is in the Air Force, but is not currently deployed, so his family, like any other, is concerned about him all the same. "Even though they know what I'm trained for, and that this is necessary, they still worry, but they know I'm okay." He says he tries to call home as often as he can. Looking back over the past four months deployed, Hess says that the unit has done a phenomenal job coming together. "Things are flowing; we've smoothed out most of the rough spots and accomplished a lot as a team." He expects nothing but good things from the Troop. "When we arrived in Kandahar, our hangar needed a lot of work, and in just under one week, we were the envy of everyone on Mustang Ramp. That was the work of the Delta Troopers, working together, each doing their part to make things better. They all have a lot to be proud of, and I'm proud to be their leader." Asked about his time in the Army, Hess says that it's been a positive experience for him. "I've met a lot of people from all over the world, and I've experienced many things in the Army that I probably never would have experienced as a civilian, but the best experience for me, hands down, is getting to work with the Soldiers. They're what make this mission successful, and I wouldn't be a good leader without their support and hard work. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with them in the military." While Hess has a pending promotion to Captain in just a few short months, he says that as far as goals are concerned, "I really want to continue to see the world, work with amazing people and continue with the mission." He says that he is also focused on school and attaining his Master's Degree within the next few years. Referring to the Captain's Career Course, Hess states, "I'll probably be going back to school shortly after we redeploy back to Fort Campbell. So as much as I'll miss the Squadron, and definitely Delta Troop, this gives me the ability to advance in my military career and hopefully come back here as a Commander at some point. It brings more challenges and new experiences every day, and I'm really looking forward to it." He is looking forward to his upcoming Rest & Relaxation leave, too. "I'm really excited to go home to visit my family and especially my girlfriend for a little bit." He is planning a vacation while on R & R. "I have a few ideas in mind as far as locations go, but I'll probably decide at the last minute where I'm headed." Hess says that while he has enjoyed his time in the Army, as far as his career is concerned, he is still unsure about retirement. "Right now, my focus is on the mission at hand, upcoming schools, promotions, and while I have many, many opportunities that lay ahead, we will see whether I will stay in for the full 20 years. I just want to enjoy what I have in front of me for a little bit before I make those decisions."

Page last updated Tue July 13th, 2010 at 21:58