Walla Walla native's dreams take flight

A Wa-Hi graduate works toward her goal of becoming a C-17 pilot in the Air Force.

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Flying soars through U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Teycee Werner's blood.

Aiming for the skies, the Walla Walla native is in the midst of Air Force flight training in Mississippi.

Getting to that stage wasn't easy. But after a lengthy application process, Werner was selected for a spot in a C-17 squadron and joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

She became a member of the 728th Airlift Squadron, based at McChord Air Force Base in Spokane, last September. After three months of Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, she was commissioned at her current rank.

She found great value in the leadership training focus and enjoyed studying military history, her mother, Aletha Werner, said.

Werner, a 2002 Walla Walla High School graduate, has since been in training in Mississippi and recently finished the first portion of the program. She is training with T-1A Jayhawk jets and is set to complete undergraduate pilot training in March. Then she expects to attend training in survival and with C-17 Globemaster heavy transport planes.

Finally, Werner expects to fly out of her base station at McChord.

"She loves the Pacific Northwest and she loves the C-17s, so we are excited for her," Aletha Werner said.

Werner's maternal grandfather, Lt. Col. Wayne Clayton Hill, was a career Air Force chaplain. He died at 61 and did not live to see his granddaughter share his love for airplanes and to know of her decision to follow in his footsteps in the military. But her daughter "is really feeling a kinship with him," Aletha Werner said.

Werner was already a pilot before the Reserves, having earned a bachelor's in aeronautics-commercial aviation from the University of North Dakota. She worked as a flight instructor with Hillsboro Aviation in Oregon and at Air Center of Salt Lake in West Jordan, Utah.

A hint at her future came in June 1993 when as a 10-year-old, Werner and Cameron Gillespie were featured on a Wings Over Walla Walla promotional poster for the local air show. Cameron's father, Allan Gillespie, and Teycee's father, Tim Werner, were co-directors of the air show board.

Werner became incredibly enthused about the huge C-17 cargo aircraft and took on the extensive process of trying to obtain a spot, her mother said.

"She is quite fortunate to have been selected, apparently, having no prior military service," Aletha Werner said.

Werner's parents took a private tour of a C-17 at McChord, "which was pretty fabulous (and) unbelievably huge." Their daughter is eager to actually fly in one, especially in the pilot's seat, her mother said.

"Flying her dream plane, the C-17, is still a ways off. ... It is an incredibly strenuous program, but she is a survivor thus far."

About the C-17 Globemaster

According to Wikipedia, the C-17 is used for the fast, strategic airlift of troops and cargo to main or forward operating bases worldwide. It can rapidly deploy a combat unit to a potential battle area and sustain it with ongoing supplies. Its three-person crew can also perform tactical airlift, medical evacuation and airdrop missions.

Maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 pounds, about 85 tons, and its maximum takeoff weight is 585,000 pounds. With a typical payload of 160,000 pounds and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 feet, the C-17 has an unrefueled range of approximately 2,400 to 2,800 nautical miles, depending on the plane's model. Its cruising speed is about 450 knots, or 517 mph. It is designed to airdrop 102 paratroopers and their equipment.

It is also designed to operate from runways as short as 3,500 feet and as narrow as 90 feet. It can even operate out of unpaved, unimproved runways, but with risk of damage to the aircraft.

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