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Face of Defense: Army Helicopter Pilot on Third ‘Career’

By Army Sgt. Neil Gussman, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity

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ANNVILLE, Pa., Nov. 05, 2015 — In 1985, when President Ronald Reagan was just beginning his second term, the Soviet Union was fighting in Afghanistan during the Cold War, Sara Christensen enlisted in the Army Reserve. She lived in California, had just graduated from high school and wanted to be a dental technician.

The following year she went to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for basic and advanced individual training. While there, she met her future husband Kelvin Christensen. He was a sergeant on his way to Officer Candidate School in California with the Army National Guard. A private at the time, Sara also was accepted for OCS and they went through the course together and were commissioned as second lieutenants.

The Christensen’s chose aviation as their branch and they eventually went to helicopter flight school. By 1991, they both had transferred to the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, serving as aviation officers.

A Growing Family

Four years later, in 1995, the Christensens decided to go from no kids to three kids all at once by adopting three children from the Pennsylvania foster care system.

By 2001, the family grown to include seven children and then-Capt. Sara Christensen left the Army National Guard for the Individual Ready Reserve. She kept her commission and was promoted to major while on inactive status.

Kelvin continued with the Army National Guard and is now a lieutenant colonel and the cargo battalion commander for the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

After a thirteen-year break in service, Sara decided to return to Army aviation. The timing was critical because the maximum age to return to aviation service is 46. She made the deadline, and is now a warrant officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard with Detachment 1, Charlie Company, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.

She could have come back as a commissioned officer and been eligible for promotion to lieutenant colonel, but she wanted to fly and would have more opportunities to be in the cockpit as a warrant officer.

In addition to beginning Army service for a third time, she has now held rank as an enlisted member, a commissioned officer, and a warrant officer.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sara Christensen is currently training in Texas for her first combat deployment -- to Southwest Asia -- later this year.