Chelsea Schellinger didn't know she was one of the first female commanders of her unit until she was two years into her command. "I'm grateful for the opportunity," she said. "Being in a strongly male-dominated profession challenges me on a daily basis. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Delaware National Guard has female commanders, starting with Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Carol A. Timmons, but Capt. Schellinger is the first female commander in Delaware Army aviation history.
"Being female hasn't altered how I go about leading my soldiers," said Schellinger. At 28, she said she hopes to motivate young women to pursue Army aviation as a career. "As an officer you can be a pilot," she said, while enlisted soldiers can become flight medics or crew chiefs.
Right now, she said, she's the only woman crew member in the Army National Guard's two air units. "Hopefully that changes over time," she said.
Schellinger set her sights on flying as a young child. "When I was in elementary school, I did a project on Pearl Harbor, and that's when decided I wanted to join the military," she said. "Flying sounded like a job I'd really enjoy, so I set my mind on it and never gave up."
Schellinger said Cape High's JROTC program gave her the building blocks for her future in the military. "They taught me the fundamentals of Army values and the possibilities of leadership positions I could pursue for my future," she said. Her instructors also helped her chart a course to reach her goals. "The instructors really guided me toward finding a scholarship and going to college first to be able to become an officer," said the 2006 Cape grad.
Her plan changed as time went on, but she basically stayed on her path. In college, she and other ROTC classmates went on a field-training exercise, and after, she knew she wanted to fly helicopters. "It was amazing, and here I am, nine years later," Schellinger said.
Schellinger said she can't talk about where she has been or what she experienced there. "But being in the military has really opened my eyes. I'm very thankful for what I have at home. Leaving your family for nine or more months can really take a toll on a person, but that's where the camaraderie within a unit comes into play. It really is a family," she said.
Schellinger has been a member of the Delaware National Guard since 2008. After starting flight school three months out of college, she has logged hundreds of hours at the controls of the Sikorsky HH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter, a four-bladed, twin-engine helicopter with a top speed of 183 mph. She now commands Delaware National Guard Aviation Unit's 126th Medevac Detachment, which was honored Oct. 4 at a deployment ceremony at its base in New Castle.
The deployment is the third for the unit in the past 10 years and will mark Schellinger's second.
She was looking forward to her new assignment, but when she's deployed, she said, "I miss the hometown feel of Lewes and my favorite restaurant, Agave. It's a great town with great people and a great military history. Those are some of the many things I love about Lewes."
Schellinger said she's excited to lead a great group, but most of all, she's proud to be an American, from the First Town in the First State.