Mid-Way Regional Airport in Midlothian welcomed a homegrown hero Tuesday, Jan. 7. Family members and friends greeted Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sylvia Grandstaff after she landed a Chinook helicopter for a refueling stop.
Growing up one of her dreams was to learn how to fly. In 2009, Grandstand left medical School at Baylor University and joined the U.S. Army to make that dream a reality. While waiting on a medical waiver from the Army to be approved, Grandstaff worked at several business at Mid-Way airport. Some of these businesses included Southern Star Aviation, the Trojan Phlyers, Airborne Imaging and flying gliders for Carol Walker.
“I have been flying gliders since I was 13 years old, so I always liked to fly but didn’t see myself doing it as a career at first. I just let people talk me out of it for too long,” Grandstaff said. “Between the time that I left medical school and joined the Army I worked here. This has been a great airport since the beginning. It is nice to come back and support the people that have supported you.”
Since joining the Army, Grandstaff completed flight school and served a tour of duty overseas in Afghanistan from August 2012 to May 2013. Grandstaff chose the Chinook helicopter as her aircraft of choice because of the many different tasks it is capable of completing.
“The appeal was the missions, which can be incredibly varied. You can do anything from slingloads (cargo transport) to fire suppression operations. (Chinooks) look big and unwieldy, but they are incredibly responsive and maneuverable. They have a lot of power,” Grandstaff said. “You notice that they have two rotors instead of one. That means the all the power from the engine feeds the two rotors for lift, so we can use all of our engine power to lift things.”
While on deployment in Afghanistan some of the loads that Grandstaff and her crew picked up or dropped off were at forward operating bases (on the front line) in remote locations. Some of these bases presented a challenge because they might be located on the side of a mountain. To maneuver the helicopter into place was a team effort, with the pilots working in coordination with the aircrew in the rear of the aircraft.
Grandstaff said one of the things that has been surprising to her since joining the military is the closeness of the community. Generations of different military members almost have an automatic kinship, she said.
“When people move bases you arrive to a company and you have an immediate group there to support you,” she said. “Everyone knows each other especially in the Chinook community. It is a small group. Even before you arrive somewhere new, your reputation precedes you. It is a good group.”
On hand to greet Grandstaff were her mother- and father-in-law Lynne and Hugh Grandstaff of Red Oak.
“It is always good to get to see her. She is stationed out in Kentucky at Fort Campbell, so we don’t get to see her very often,” Lynne said. “She just recently got back from Afghanistan, so this is even more special.”
Lynne said Sylvia is a very motivated and goal-oriented person, and she is proud of her daughter-in-law pursuing that career.
Hugh shared his wife’s feelings that they are proud parents-in-law, because of what she has accomplished.