Face of Defense: Siblings Serve Together as C-17 Pilots
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. --
Two pilots here share more than a workplace. They share blood.
Air Force Capt. Gary Whiteman, assistant commander of the 14th Airlift Squadron's C Flight, and his sister, Air Force 1st Lt. Kristina Whiteman, 14th AS liaison officer, both are U.S. Air Force Academy graduates and C-17 Globemaster III pilots.
“Being a Whiteman sibling comes with an expectation of being a hard worker and doing an excellent job,” Kristina Whiteman said. “It’s an expectation I often try to exceed.”
Gary, Kristina and their middle brother, Brent, a former Air Force contracting officer, grew up close as children in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their family was active in the community, but with no military veteran in their immediate family, they hadn’t always aspired to military service.
“My siblings and I grew up as the best of friends,” Gary Whiteman said. “We had a lot of the same friends growing up who we still keep in contact with today.”
Gary played baseball with his brother at the Air Force Academy, and Kristina played soccer. But once they committed to their careers as pilots, flying took priority over athletics.
“Once I joined the glider program at the academy, I fell in love with flying,” Gary said. “Although baseball was my passion, flying started to take over.”
During pilot training, Gary and Kristina decided cargo aircraft, rather than fighter aircraft, were the most appropriate fit for them, because they liked the idea of flying with a crew.
“I am a huge fan of the crew concept,” Kristina said. “You aren’t flying solo. You have your own family wherever you go.”
Upholding Family Legacy
For Kristina, the bar had been set high by Gary's reputation throughout his pilot training. But she had no intention of turning their similar career paths into a sibling rivalry, she said. Rather, she added, she just wanted to uphold the legacy that comes with the Whiteman name.
“Gary has built a great reputation for our family,” she said. “I want to do better and make him proud I’m his sister."
Many factors aligned to create the siblings' opportunity to work side by side as Air Force pilots, and Kristina said they appreciate that chance.
“We get to represent both family and country every day we put on the uniform and head into work for the greatest Air Force the world has ever seen,” she said.