Face of Defense: Army Pilot Gets Top Warrant Rank
By Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. Carl
Task Force Thunder
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 8, 2011 Army rotary-wing aviator Kyle Hill was promoted to chief warrant officer five -- the top warrant officer rank -- during a Dec. 1 ceremony here.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Five Kyle Hill, right, receives his new insignia of rank during a promotion ceremony on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 1, 2011. Being promoted to the top warrant officer rank “is the pinnacle,” said Hill, who has served 22 years as an Army rotary-wing aviator. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Getting promoted to W5 is the pinnacle,” said Hill, the standardization instructor pilot for the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment’s Task Force Wings at Forward Operating Base Wolverine in southern Afghanistan.
“I’ve reached the top rung but it’s bittersweet,” he said, “because I know it’s not going to last forever.”
During his 22 years in the Army, Hill has flown more than 5,000 hours and earned the coveted master aviator badge.
Hill was 26 when he joined the Army in 1989. He grew up in Tyler, Texas, and worked at the local airport from the time he was 15. That’s where his passion for flying began. He started out sweeping floors because he wasn’t old enough to do anything else, he said, then moved on to refueling the planes when he was 16.
Hill said his Army accomplishments come from his passion for flying.
“The experience of flying itself is remarkable,” Hill said. “You get a bird’s-eye view of everything, and I’ve never gotten over the joy of that.”
Yet, Hill said there was a time when he had doubts -- not so much about flying, but about remaining in the Army.
“I was at the point where a lot of warrant officers are today,” he said. “They’re not committed [to a military career] and not sure if the Army lifestyle is for them.”
In 1998, Hill decided to leave the Army when he was a chief warrant officer two.
“I actually got out,” he said. “I thought I could do better.”
Like many military pilots, Hill said, he thought the license he’d earned through the Army would be the ticket to his success as a civilian pilot.
“But I didn’t have enough experience,” he said. “And that’s what they’re looking for on the outside.” Instead of flying, Hill became a train conductor.
Yet, it wasn’t long before he missed flying. His wife, Kelly, whom Hill married in 1994, had supported him through the break in service, and she stood behind him again.
“He wanted to do it because he loved it -- he loves flying,” Kelly said. “It seems like that’s just what he’s made to do.”
Hill said one of his favorite things about flying helicopters is the ability to hover.
“That’s the unique thing about helicopters,” he said. “You can stop and look around. You can look at anything from any perspective.”
In Afghanistan, Hill serves as a mentor to the junior aviators and strives to teach them the value of having patience and perspective.
“When we’re out flying missions, he looks at the ‘big picture,’” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jared Marsh, a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter pilot with Company A, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment.
“He’s really taught me how to look at the whole picture and evaluate everything,” Marsh said of Hill’s tutelage, noting that
Hill also has taught him patience, a quality that many of Hill’s comrades admire in him.
Hill “is a patient and extremely competent officer who lives the Army values on a daily basis,” said Army Lt. Col. Chris Albus, Hill’s commander.
Hill said he enjoys teaching the younger pilots.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than watching the light bulb come on when you’re teaching a maneuver and they get it,” he said. “It’s like a teacher teaching math. There’s nothing quite like seeing that confidence they get when they learn how to do something, and by giving them that confidence you’ve accomplished something.”