by Jess Clackum
Captain Taylor Pearce is an Aeromedical Evacuation Platoon Leader in the US Army Medical Service Corps. She is a native of Cleveland and the daughter of an Army nurse and UH-1 Huey pilot. Pearce grew up with Army values instilled in her and chose to attend the US Military Academy at West Point, where she graduated from in 2011.
Becoming a pilot wasn't Pearce's first career choice. She'd been leaning toward joining the Medical Service Corps because she knew she wanted follow in her mother's footsteps with a career in the medical field. However, things changed after leading a field exercise during the summer before her senior year at West Point.
"We watched as a Lakota gently landed to the field, completed a full hovering pedal turn, and descended to its stop on the ground. The machine was beautiful, yes, but that's not what got my attention. I stood there in admiration as a beautiful female Major climbed out of the cockpit. Up until that point, men had been the role models for all the "cool jobs" and if there did happen to be a female in a leadership position, she tended to be slightly older and a bit masculine- not something I could relate to.
Here was this blond, young female, who commanded this fascinating beast of a machine to her will. As they began giving their speech she pulled me aside and asked what I wanted to do in the Army. I told her I was thinking about Medical Service Corps, and she replied, "you know, Medical Service Corps Officers can fly MEDEVAC." And that was it. That was my calling."
Upon graduation from Flight School in Fort Rucker, Alabama in 2013, Pearce was assigned to Camp Humphreys, South Korea for a year where she executed several MEDEVAC missions in some of the worst conditions, made dangerous by mountains, wires and high rise buildings. She even had the opportunity to participate in a NATO mission that transferred NATO observers to the Yeonpyeong islands to monitor gun firing lines.
In 2014 she departed Korea for Hunter Army Airfield, but nine months later she was deployed to Afghanistan as part of a small detachment providing MEDEVAC coverage to southern Afghanistan from a small tactical base known as Dwyer. Her learning curve shot up over the next nine months where she flew through dust storms, enemy fire and participated in power management, mission planning, joint operations, and an accident recovery mission.
Pearce and her detachment were located in a remote field site and so it was up to them to handle the day-to-day aircraft maintenance. Medics, pilots and crew chiefs pitched in to ensure maintenance was completed. Pearce's knowledge of the inner workings of the helicopter grew as she spent time performing maintenance on it. Eventually, she was appointed Pilot-in-Command at Dwyer, a place she says she will never forget.
Captain Pearce is indebted to the WASP, who paved the way for her and all women to fly.
"Because of their sacrifices, I am now able to serve my country in one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and - lets face it - fun jobs there is. I wonder if they knew that their challenges- the lack of facilities and funds, the resentment from many male counterparts, and the lack of military benefits or recognition, were hard first steps to paving the road for future Fly Girls such as myself? Today I enjoy the luxury of being treated as an equal, of receiving the best Aviation training in the world, and flying without reserve into some of the most austere conditions around the globe, thanks to this group of brave women. I am in completely indebted to their sacrifices."
We are too! Thank you Captain Pearce for your brave service to our country!