A Legacy of Welcoming All
Jennifer “Carebear” King
Hometown: Wildwood Crest, New Jersey
July 2019 Issue
Photography by Tonya Brye of Brye Photography
What is your rank and job title?
I am a Marine, a Captain, an F/A-18 WSO (Weapons and Systems Officer), and Assistant Maintenance Officer. The fastest and most understood way to describe my pilot job is “Goose” in Top Gun, I am in the backseat.
As a child did you always dream of flying?
I never dreamed of, or thought of, flying as a child. I was very poor and only had hope to get out of my situation one day. I joined the Marine Corps after college because I had a very strong calling, and God would not let go of my heart, despite my resistance. After joining, I actually tried getting out of my flight contract during basic Marine Corps training because I wanted to be in combat sooner with my buddies, but God had different plans for me and proved that He knows what’s best, because I never would have enjoyed anything as much as I have enjoyed flying Hornets.
Does being a female fighter pilot make you feel like a complete badass?
My boyfriend Ross is the badass. I feel extremely blessed more than anything to be a female WSO in the Marine Corps. I am grateful for the opportunity and remind myself everyday how lucky I am. I always joke saying, I grew up as the middle boy of three: I had an older and younger brother, all one year apart, and we challenged each other in everything, which forged my competitive character. I was on the little league baseball team, I was the captain of my high school basketball team, and we won the state championship twice. I often played basketball with the guys through college and rowed on the crew team, and I was a competitive ocean lifeguard with 75 guys. I felt like I fit in well and have never felt like I didn’t belong because I’m a female.
Tell us more about what being a pilot/aviator involves?
What’s great about my job is it is always a challenge. There is so much to know that it’s nearly impossible to memorize or retain everything at once and the tactics, systems and emergency procedures are always evolving, which means you need to stay in the books. My primary job is to be a proficient WSO, which requires flights, simulators and studying. I fly on average two to three times per week, consisting of preparation, brief, fly and debrief, which can take anywhere from 5 to 12 hours, depending on the mission. Missions include fighting other aircraft and practicing dropping ordnance in support of Marines, or other personnel on surface targets. On a daily basis I am in charge of the training of the maintenance department and ensuring jets are being fixed and maintained in accordance with the appropriate current publications as the Assistant Maintenance Officer, while adhering to safety procedures as the Quality Assurance Officer. I manage the Maintenance Advanced Skills Management System (ASM) database and manage the profiles of 160 Marines, including qualifications, licenses, formal schools, technical training, readiness syllabi, certifications, billet assignments, annual training requirements and programs. I also manage the Quality Assurance and Maintenance Administration divisions.
How often have you been deployed and where?
I have deployed three times out to the Pacific area of operation for training and once to the Middle East in a non-flying billet, directly supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Tell us a few good tales since you’ve joined the military?
I’ve never been shot at, but I refrain from telling some of the stories I have. Let’s just say you see some interesting things!
What should young girls interested in this field know?
For girls specifically, I would recommend having a focus on physical fitness to endure the rigors of being a Marine. As an aviator, I recommend seeking local opportunities for flight training to include home-based flight simulator games and checking out local airports. Learning the FAR/AIM, general aerodynamics and weather will give a solid understanding of the basics. There are a lot of opportunities for young girls, and a good recourse is “Girls in Aviation Day” sponsored by Women in Aviation International.
Having achieved more than a 1,000 flight hours doesn’t leave much room for extracurricular activities, but what do you do in your free time?
I love skydiving (She’s skydived more than 100 times!) but location plays a huge factor in my ability to do that. Over the last two years, since I moved to Beaufort, minus 10 months for deployments and non-local training detachments, I have loved exploring in my free time, traveling, trying new food, visiting family and friends, which is easier being stationed on the same coast for the first time in 10 years, and best of all I get to do it all with my favorite person! I love being on the water and would like to spend more time doing that.
We hear you’re pretty competitive and have completed two Ironman triathlons, what drives you?
I love a challenge. I have been running for over 24 years, and to this day, I hate it. That’s why I do it: It’s still a challenge. A full Ironman is no joke, and I still don’t know how I’ve done two! You can’t just complete an Ironman off natural talent alone, you have to train over several months to a year, so the challenge is in the enduring discipline, determination, motivation, will and effort. It’s training when you don’t want to over and over and over again. I will tell you the feeling of accomplishment crossing the finish line, knowing what you put into it, feels like you actually achieved something big. No one gave it to you. You pushed past your perceived limitations and earned it. My last Ironman I raised money for “Save the Children,” which added more purpose to the pain.
What essentials do you always have with you?
I always have my cell phone for all the reasons and a toothpick. I know that sounds funny but taking care of my teeth is a priority and a luxury that poor kids like me didn’t always have.
Do you have any strong mentors?
I have a lot of strong mentors, but my mother has been the strongest influence and showed me to how to work incredibly hard for what I want. I live by the motto Faith Over Fear, which keeps me focused on trusting God, who has always provided. I have also made bad choices in my life, and I was able to persevere because I was told that you will make mistakes but what matters most, and what defines your character, is how you move forward. Take responsibility for your actions, learn from them, and become a better person.
Also being featured this month is Pat Denkler, who was among the first female aviators. (She was the first woman to land on a carrier) How does that make you feel and what do you think you could learn from her?
I think what Pat did was an incredible accomplishment, and I know it helped pave a path for all those who followed her. Her story is one of confidence that sets a perfect example for all women to aspire to.
This month we asked our readers what makes them feel most Patriotic, what would you say?
Singing the national anthem, which is usually accompanied by a flag, makes me feel most patriotic. Every time I hear the anthem, standing at attention, or my hand over my heart, I remember my friends and all those who gave their life serving our country. I pray for their families and friends. I remember all those who have served and those currently serving; I think of and pray for those who protect the people of our country home side, and especially my boyfriend, who is a firefighter with the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal. I think of all the patriots who make our nation great, and I pray for our country and world.
What are you roaring about?
I roar about always trusting God with your life and treating people well with your actions. My faith that God has a plan for my life of hope and a future has gotten me through my share of struggles and suffering. I am where I am, and have had the amazing opportunities I’ve had, as a direct result of God’s discernment. I give Him all the credit for all my successes, while I take responsibility for my failures. You will never regret treating people well, but you will forever regret treating people poorly.