The Women of the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 130th Airlift Wing
On January 20, 2023, Lieutenant Colonel Kristen Hoeckel, Major Kelly Farris, Chief Master Sergeant Deborah Turrill, Technical Sergeant Autumn Davis, and Technical Sergeant Emily Knight made history as the first all-female aircrew in the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 130th Airlift Wing to take flight. Together, they have logged thousands of flight hours and have a combined 80 years of enlisted service. “Chief Master Sergeant Turrill took the initial challenging steps to become the first female aviator in this unit,” Technical Sergeant Emily Knight says. “She very much opened the door for the rest of us to thrive here.”
However, the way they see it, that day was just like any other. “We feel, as aviators, that there was nothing particularly special about the five of us showing up to work and doing the job we have all trained for years to do,” Knight says. “Leading up to the flight, I was just excited to get to fly with my friends.”
To Hoeckel, Farris, Turrill, Davis, and Knight, they aren’t special or abnormal. They are just like anyone else in their unit and anyone who comes after. They’re aviators, pilots—no gender descriptors necessary. “We support one another, and we work hard. Each of us possesses the talent, competence, skill, knowledge, poise, and gumption to flourish in this field, and those are the basic qualities that can be found in any determined woman.”
Learn more about our Wonder Women
Since 2014 WV Living magazine has been honoring West Virginia Wonder Women, amazing women who are raising the bar in their communities, serving as beacons of light in their industries, and forcing change for the greater good. WV Living is proud to celebrate these Appalachian mothers, millennials, and mavens proving that in a time full of uncertainty, divisiveness, and hate, love for one another is all we really need. No need for bulletproof bracelets or a golden lasso of truth—these women are creating a better West Virginia with their can-do attitudes and Mountain State spirit.