Faces of the Force

Feb. 26, 2019

Capt. Zoe Kotnik became the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team’s first female commander and pilot on Jan. 29 and also the service’s first female single-ship aerial demonstration pilot. Kotnik, an Air Force Academy grad and eight-year veteran, has more than 1,000 flying hours in the F-16 and trainers.

SrA. Kelly An Davis, a security forces airman at Ramstein AB, Germany, has become an unofficial Air Force ambassador. The Aviationist blog called her Instagram account, where she documents her professional and personal activities, “a value-added recruiting asset for” USAF. And no wonder: At press time, her account had over 13.6 million followers.

Tucker Bone, a midfielder on the Air Force Academy soccer team, was drafted by the Seattle Sounders in Round 1 of the MLS SuperDraft, after a season in which he scored 13 goals, had six assists, and made the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s All-America soccer team in December. Graduating in June, Tucker will have to report for duty 60 days later—unless the Air Force grants a waiver to let him pursue both soccer and a military career.

Atlanta Falcons Offensive Guard and Colorado Air National Guard Capt. Ben Garland received the National Football League and USAA’s 2018 Salute to Service Award created to acknowledge exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community who honor and support the military. In his honor, USAA will donate $5,000 to each of the five military-service aid societies, and the NFL will give $25,000 to a military charity of Garland’s choosing.

Maj. Rachael Winiecki, from the 461st Flight Test Squadron, completed her flight test mission last month to become the first female F-35 developmental test pilot. The number of women in the test community is increasing, Winiecki said, noting several female test directors, conductors, discipline engineers, and flight test engineers within the 461st FLTS.

A Texas newspaper’s story about an unattached Air Force veteran’s funeral triggered a domino effect of epic proportions. When the Killeen Daily Herald reported that Joseph Walker, 72, was slated to be buried with full military honors and no relatives present, details about the funeral went viral on social media and over 2,000 people reportedly showed up in support.

MSgt. Trevor Derr, 736th Maintenance Squadron’s Airframes Powerplant General Section Chief at Dover AFB, Del., runs three to five miles daily while holding an American flag to honor a fallen comrade. Derr first planned to run 1,000 miles with the flag between January 2018 and January 2019, but he plans to continue to run to raise awareness for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) victims.

When USAF Col. Joanna McPherson (l) of Shreveport, La., was diagnosed with breast cancer and faced chemotherapy, she decided to shave her head. Then her two young daughters, 10-year-old Kayla and seven-year-old Sophia, said they wanted their heads shaved, too—in solidarity with their mom. Says McPherson on her blog at her2positivelife.com, “Watch the video and you’ll see why I love my life.”