From a young age, senior Celina Guan has dreamed of becoming an Air Force pilot. Her dream has literally taken her beyond the clouds, motivating her to join Civil Air Patrol and various other programs that have taught her skills required to join the Air Force. In an interview with The Howler, Guan shared her inspirations, aspirations and challenges of chasing her dream.
Alice Chen: What inspired you to want to become an Air Force pilot?
Celina Guan: When I was seven, my parents took me to the USS Midway. When we went up to the flight deck and saw the aircraft lined up at the flight deck, I was amazed, and that was when I knew. Also, my dad is really into aircraft and World War II things, so when I was little, we used to watch dogfights together.
AC: Who is a major role model or inspiration for you?
CG: I read a book called “Unbroken,” and there is a character called Louis Zamperini. He was an Olympic athlete who later joined the Army Aircorp during World War II. His whole survival story taught me a lot about service, courage and to have perseverance, so I think that was a big influence on how I should conduct myself.
AC: What were your parents’ view when you told them you wanted to become an air-force pilot?
CG: At first, they were skeptical because they wanted to make sure that this was what i really went to do, and they wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into.
AC: What steps have you taken to becoming an Air Force pilot?
CG: In order to become a pilot and serve in the Air force, one of my options is to get into the Air Force Academy. I have been doing stuff to work myself towards that. One of the biggest things I’ve been doing is Civil Air Patrol. I’m currently part of the cadet program, which is modeled after the Air Force. We wear their uniforms and learn drills, customs and courtesy, which gives me a lot of insights on the military. I also went to the Naval Academy Summer Seminar, and that was a kick in the butt physically and mentally too. I had to rely on the people around me to help propel me through the training.
AC: What type of airplanes have you flown before?
CG: Through Civil Air Patrol, I’ve flown Cessnas, which are single engine prop planes, and sports stars, which are planes that only have a glass shell above you.
AC: What has been the most difficult thing about training?
CG: Encampment, which is basically a weeklong mock bootcamp. You’re there for a week. You get yelled at. You have to drill everywhere, and you do PT (Physical Training). The camp was more of a mental challenge rather than a physical challenge for me.
AC: As a woman in a male dominated field, what have been some difficulties?
CG: When you’re in an environment with a lot of guys, you feel like you represent the whole female population, and that gives me extra pressure to do well. In my flight, there are 12 people—two girls and 10 guys. During one of the PT tests for pushups, the guys were competing against each other, and they looked at me like I couldn’t do pushups. That became one of my motivations to do well during PT tests, and I ended up out-pushupping all of them.
AC: How has your experience in the Civil Air Patrol and dream of becoming an Air Force pilot shaped you as a person?
CG: The Air Force gave me a purpose and a goal, making me pull myself together and work out a plan to get where I wanted to go. I learned to work harder, be more responsible and take more initiative. Civil Air Patrol has been a part of my plan to reach my goal and it has developed me as a person and a speaker. I used to be a very timid person, but Civil Air Patrol taught me how to build confidence, how to speak, how to be more sure of myself and how to think critically.
Through Civil Air Patrol, I have also met a lot of people from different places and with, which taught me a lot about perspective and how to actively look for those perspectives. Civil Air Patrol has also taught me to pay attention to detail, put the wellbeings of others before my own and a lot of qualities that has made me a more focused and better person.