Service in the skies: A family tradition

Nearly a decade later, looking out the window of the Jayhawk’s cockpit, Lt. Adriana Knies can’t help but admire the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. The stretch of coastal region between Tillamook Bay, Ore., and Vancouver Island, Canada, has been nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Pacific” because of its unpredictable seas and rough landscape that continually threaten mariners and outdoorsmen alike.

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Over the next week, Compass will be featuring men and women who operate in the Pacific Northwest. From Lt. Adriana Knies, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter pilot, and Chief Petty Officer Joel Sayers, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, to Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan Burns, a boatswain’s mate and surfman, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Rashad Gipson, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crewman and aviation maintenance technician. Each will be highlighted, along with their shipmates, in the upcoming season of The Weather Channel’s new series Coast Guard Cape Disappointment Pacific Northwest .

Lt. Adriana J. Knies, a pilot assigned to Air Station Astoria. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Littlejohn.
Lt. Adriana J. Knies, a pilot assigned to Air Station Astoria. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Littlejohn.

Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Tyson.

Coast Guardsmen are born
Some are born to intercept
Some born to protect
Some born to defend
They are all born to save lives
Few are born to fly

“I basically own my own roller coaster,” said Lt. Adriana J. Knies, a recently qualified MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter pilot assigned to Coast Guard Sector Columbia River/Air Station Astoria, Ore. “It’s a gratifying thing to work with a crew and do something different and important every day.”

Every time Knies takes to the skies, she continues a rich family tradition dedicated to aviation and service to her country.

Lt. Adriana Knies is a recently qualified MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter pilot, seen here during a training evolution. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Lt. Adriana Knies is a recently qualified MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter pilot, seen here during a training evolution. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Knies’ father served in the Army as a helicopter pilot and her brother is currently enrolled in Marine Corps flight school.

Wishing to follow in her father’s boot steps, Knies applied to every military service academy. She was accepted into the Coast Guard Academy Scholar Program and attended a year of preparatory school before earning a cadet appointment.

“My dad took me for a flight after I got my military ID,” said Knies. “I knew then that I wanted to fly.”

Nearly a decade later, looking out the window of the Jayhawk’s cockpit, Knies can’t help but admire the landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

The stretch of coastal region between Tillamook Bay, Ore., and Vancouver Island, Canada, has been nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Pacific” because of its unpredictable seas and rough landscape that continually threaten mariners and outdoorsmen alike.

“One day you can be flying hundreds of miles offshore, and the next you’re on a rare inland case to rescue someone in the snowy mountains,” said Knies. “And the weather is constantly different.”

No matter what the case type, Knies always stresses safety as the main priority. She encourages her crews to speak up if they notice anything out of place or unsafe.

Knies said the greatest challenge she faces in her Coast Guard career is learning how to compartmentalize.

“You have to put your personal issues in a tiny box,” she said. “That’s the only way you can deal with what you have to handle right in front of you.”

Lt. Cmdr. James R. Cooley, Knies’ supervisor and fellow pilot assigned to Sector Columbia River/Air Station Astoria, praises the devotion Knies has to her work.

“Lt. Knies has unwavering dedication,” said Cooley. “She spends countless hours both at work and at home honing her craft as a pilot. You can tell that she’s very devoted.”

Cooley insists that as a Coast Guard commissioned officer, Knies’ leadership skills go far beyond her technical knowledge of the aircraft.

Lt. Adriana Knies in front of an MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Littlejohn.
Lt. Adriana Knies in front of an MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Littlejohn.

“There’s a human element to being a pilot beyond just manipulation of flight controls,” he said. “It’s my opinion you can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat their subordinates. One of her best traits is her ability to be a good leader.”

Knies said it is an honor to be featured on Coast Guard Cape Disappointment Pacific Northwest.

“It’s a privilege, not a right,” she said. “It’s a nice thing that I can give a positive image to the Coast Guard.”

Knies hopes viewers of the show will recognize the vast dedication Coast Guardsmen have to serving the public.

“There’s a lot that we do, and we enjoy doing it,” she said. “I honestly hope people will get a little bit more knowledge of what we do for them and what we’ll always do.”

Every Coast Guardsman has a different reason for serving. For Knies and many others, the call to duty is in their blood. It courses through their veins, fuels their adrenaline and reminds them of their responsibility to be Semper Paratus—Always Ready.

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