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Amputee regains wings

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, checks the wing of an HC-130J Combat King II during pre-flight checks, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise is the sixth Air Force pilot to return to the cockpit after becoming an amputee. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, checks the wing of an HC-130J Combat King II during pre-flight checks, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise is the sixth Air Force pilot to return to the cockpit after becoming an amputee. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, adjusts her prosthetic leg prior to taxiing in an HC-130J Combat King II, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.  Wise is the first female to return to the pilot seat following an amputation. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, adjusts her prosthetic leg prior to taxiing in an HC-130J Combat King II, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise is the first female to return to the pilot seat following an amputation. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, left, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, talks with co-pilots prior to her first flight back in the cockpit, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise is the fourth above-the-knee amputee pilot to return to flying status. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, left, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, talks with co-pilots prior to her first flight back in the cockpit, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise is the fourth above-the-knee amputee pilot to return to flying status. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130 J Combat King II pilot, looks over flight plans prior to her first flight since becoming an above-the-knee amputee, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise says her goal from day one after the accident was to return to the cockpit. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130 J Combat King II pilot, looks over flight plans prior to her first flight since becoming an above-the-knee amputee, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise says her goal from day one after the accident was to return to the cockpit. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, climbs into an HC-130J Combat King II for her first flight since becoming an above-the-knee amputee, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise underwent nearly 15 months of rehabilitation before she was cleared to fly. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, climbs into an HC-130J Combat King II for her first flight since becoming an above-the-knee amputee, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise underwent nearly 15 months of rehabilitation before she was cleared to fly. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, steps through the rear door of the 71st RQS building to begin her walk to the flightline for her first flight since becoming an above-the-knee amputee, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise became an amputee after a boating accident in April of 2015. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron pilot, steps through the rear door of the 71st RQS building to begin her walk to the flightline for her first flight since becoming an above-the-knee amputee, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise became an amputee after a boating accident in April of 2015. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, taxis onto the runway during a requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise made her mark in Air Force history by becoming the sixth amputee to return to the skies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, taxis onto the runway during a requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise made her mark in Air Force history by becoming the sixth amputee to return to the skies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, finishes a pre-flight check before her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. A boating accident resulted in an above-the-knee amputation of Wise's right leg. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, finishes a pre-flight check before her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. A boating accident resulted in an above-the-knee amputation of Wise's right leg. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

A local media news outlet interviews U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, after her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise spent 15 months after her accident rehabilitating in preparation for her return to flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

A local media news outlet interviews U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, after her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise spent 15 months after her accident rehabilitating in preparation for her return to flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, taxis at the end of her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise made her mark in Air Force history by becoming the first female above-the-knee amputee to return to the skies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)
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U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, taxis at the end of her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise made her mark in Air Force history by becoming the first female above-the-knee amputee to return to the skies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

U.SU.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise,71st Rescue Squadron pilot, laughs in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II after returning from her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise credited other amputees, who have become her mentors, for her quick return to the sky. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Daniel Snider)
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U.SU.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise,71st Rescue Squadron pilot, laughs in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II after returning from her requalification flight, July 22, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Wise credited other amputees, who have become her mentors, for her quick return to the sky. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Daniel Snider)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

One HC-130J pilot solidified her place in history as the sixth amputee and the first-female above-the-knee amputee to return to the cockpit July 22, here.

Following nearly 15 months of rehabilitation, learning to walk, run and fly again, U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II pilot, was medically cleared to retake the skies.

“In this day in age it’s nice to be able to show girls out there everywhere that you’re capable of anything if you put your mind to it,” said Wise. “I am the first female, which is funny because I don’t ever think of myself as a female pilot, but as a pilot. I’m not the first in any way but I’m the sixth.”

“For me, I never even considered not getting back to flying,” Wise added. “I was going to do whatever it took to get back to flying because this is my job and this is what I love.”

What started out as a weekend of fun with friends, turned into a moment in time that would take Wise out of the cockpit. On April 11, 2015, Wise was paddle boarding in a cove behind a friend’s house when a boat swerved into her path.

While the events that followed appeared to move in slow motion, within three minutes Wise was rescued by nearby boaters and rushed to a nearby hospital. That same night, Wise was given the prognosis that she was an above-the-knee amputee.

Wise began mentally preparing herself for the demands of the road ahead, but credits other amputees and fellow Airmen for their continuous support.

“I’ve had amazing support from the base, Air Force and then also other amputees,” said Wise. “They were always supporting me and talking to me all along and that made everything so much easier.”

“Everything is different now,” Wise added. “Even just walking around the squadron, practice egressing, running, and returning to full duty days as an amputee, everything is more exhausting. But I learned to walk, then run, [and now] fly and all of that was a part of the process.” 

The Air Force’s physical requirements coupled with Wise’s new limited mobility didn’t change her commitment and determination. Rescue leadership says it’s this resilient attitude that made it possible.

“Wise’s positive attitude and drive never ceases to amaze me," said Col. Thomas Dorl, 347th Rescue Group commander. "It is no surprise that she is back in the cockpit. Her ability to overcome anything in the face of adversity, stay positive and motivated, all the while, continuing to get back in the cockpit, is a true testament to her resiliency."

The road back to the pilot seat was filled with bumps and hurdles, but Wise proclaims she knew it would pay off in the end.

“I knew this day was going to come, I just didn’t know when or how soon,” said Wise. “One of the biggest hurdles to getting back here was passing my physical fitness test. That was the hardest thing I’ve done yet because running as an above-the-knee amputee is so difficult.”

In February, Wise’s drive and determination was tested but she passed what she says was one of the biggest hurdles, scoring an excellent on her fitness test.

“I am incredibly proud of Christy and am honored to call her a member of the rescue group," said Dorl. "Captain Wise's drive and determination is an inspiration and an encouragement to others to never give up, no matter what life throws your way.”

 

Wise wants people to know that when faced with adversity, surrounding yourself with supportive people is the key to overcoming any situation.

“One amputee in my rehab center said something to me I’ll never forget,” said Wise. “He said, ‘don’t for one second long for who you were, but recklessly pursue who you can become.’ That doesn’t have to be a leg, it could be a better job, an old boss or anything you had in the past longing for it doesn’t help. We can learn from the past but we can’t get it back.”