FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Anticipation filled the air as almost 50 Aviators came together at the post theater during the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Aviator Course graduation ceremony to be pinned with their wings, with one graduate continuing a family tradition in Army Aviation.
Second Lt. Kasandra Clark, IERW UH-60 Black Hawk Aviation graduate, stood in line as her mother, Molly, pinned her own wings of 28 years on her daughter as her father, Ed, also an Army Aviator, watched and congratulated the family's next Aviator.
"It's kind of surreal to graduate," said Kasandra. "You think about it being way in the future, but now that it's actually here, you think if you've done everything that you needed to do to be best prepared."
Molly said that the graduation had been emotional for her, especially the fact that her daughter is now an Army Aviator.
"I've been thinking about it a lot -- especially the last couple of days," she said. "This is really happening and I never would have thought that one of our daughters would have actually followed in our footsteps and go into Aviation -- I was really happy when she chose to."
Kasandra's decision to go into Aviation came suddenly as she was going into her final year at West Point.
"I don't think I even wanted to go into the military as I was growing up, but it's where God took me," she said. "I wanted to go into [military] intelligence originally, but I got to spend a couple of days at the Aviation unit where I was and I got to see all the helicopters and everything, and I just loved it."
The fact that she had two Aviators for parents made the transition easier for her, said Kasandra.
"It definitely influenced me having two Aviators as parents," she said. "My family as a whole has been in the military from my grandfather to my older sister. I've grown up around it, but I wouldn't consider myself a military brat.
"I don't think I've ever felt the pressure to go into the military or go into Aviation, but I'm the type of person that needs to constantly keep going and be challenged," said Kasandra. "[In Aviation], you're learning something every day and you don't do the same things -- that definitely got my attention. You always have to think outside of the box and I think that's where I fit best."
Ed said he was excited to hear that his daughter had chosen to go into Aviation, adding that he might have helped to push her in the direction of Aviation, but wanted to leave the decision up to her.
"She kept talking about military intelligence while she was at West Point, but while she was out at Fort Irwin, [Calif.], she called me telling me how different military intelligence was. So, I asked her if they had an Aviation unit there and when she told me yes, I told her to go down there and talk to them," he said. "Sure enough she went down there to talk to them and after that, all she would talk about was how excited she was about going into Aviation."
Both of Kasandra's parents were trained at Fort Rucker when Aviation first became a Branch.
"We have a long history with Army Aviation, and it's just something that's engrained in us," said Ed. "[Molly and I] were both here when Aviation became a Branch and it was an exciting time to see that happen, and it's really exciting now to see how Aviation has evolved from being the Branch on the outside to the Branch that everyone wants to be a part of."
Kasandra said she could always hear the excitement in her parents' voices as they would talk about Aviation once they found out she was interested. She would listen to their stories about what they went through as they trained and talk about the differences that she had to endure throughout training.
"It was cool to hear [from my parents] how things have changed in Aviation," she said. "It's definitely been a good thing to have that [relationship with them]. I've tried my best as I've gone through and that's all I can do -- continue to strive and learn everything that I can."
Kasandra will continue on to serve as an Army Aviator at Fort Campbell, Ky.