Catherine Gillies grew up on the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland. Her life after high school can be summed up in two words: “Big Adventures!” She graduated from the Naval Academy in 1989, the 10th class to have women in it. She then attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida. She earned her “wings of gold” in 1991 as a helicopter pilot. She had one rescue at sea and two medivacs while serving aboard five aircraft carriers: USS Kitty Hawk, USS Eisenhower, USS Saratoga, USS Forrestal and USS Constellation. She, along with another female pilot, was privileged to be among the first female pilots stationed aboard Kitty Hawk.
Just before Catherine was due to leave Pensacola, the Combat Exclusion Policy was lifted, and military careers for women became much more exciting. She volunteered to become the first female pilot to fly in a Marine Corps squadron. In October 1993, she checked into HMT-303 in Camp Pendleton, CA with the press trailing behind her! There, she taught Navy and Marine student pilots to fly the UH-1N “Huey.”
After that, she ran a military recycling facility for about a year before serving as a training officer on staff in San Diego (where she earned a Masters in Psychology). In 1997, she returned to flying. She flew the H-3 Sea King helicopter and served aboard two more aircraft carriers, USS Kennedy and USS Lincoln, while flying three more medivacs and one airborne firefighting mission.
Her next assignment was in Tennessee where she assisted with the mobilization of Navy reservists immediately following 9/11. In 2000, she earned a Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. In 2003, she earned a Doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Her graduate research was conducted on the attrition of Navy personnel in their first enlistments.
In January 2004, she was the Operations and Training department head for a staff in Point Mugu, CA, and in 2004 she was selected to be the officer in charge of a Navy Reserve center in Port Hueneme, CA. She returned to Maryland for her final two assignments as second in command of two different Navy Reserve centers supporting over a thousand reservists. She retired from the Navy in June 2009.
Catherine has taught undergraduate and graduate courses for three different colleges. She and her family live near Annapolis, Maryland, where she has been a homeschooling mom to three kids for ten years. In her spare time, she likes to sew, bake, swim, sail, and hike. She has also been a Scout leader for fifteen years. Through her youth mentorship, the youth she works with strengthen their servant leadership and become better stewards of God’s gift to us — our big, beautiful Earth.
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