Flying, Fighting, and WINNING!

  • Published
  • By Mr. Daniel G. Pensiero
After beating over 55,000 other highly qualified members of the Air Force Reserve Command, Tech Sgt. Nicole Gansert, of the 514th Air Mobility Wing, transcended from a self-proclaimed 'college dropout' to one of the 2020 United States Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. Concluding the award announcement, Gansert, who is an In-flight Refueling Specialist with the 78th Air Refueling Squadron, provided us with insight on her eight-year journey through the Air Force Reserve -- the highs, the lows, inbetweens and the journey that lies ahead.
Throughout 2019, Gansert produced an award-winning collection of accomplishments -- including a deployment with over 25 combat missions while simultaneously attending distance learning college with a near-perfect grade point average. These accomplishments demonstrated her ability to juggle the stresses of deployment and her drive for personal development.
When queried about her proudest accomplishments, Gansert humbly replied, “I came in at 23 years old as a college dropout, and now, I have just finished my master’s degree. To reflect further on her personal growth she elaborated by stating, "I came in looking for discipline and have managed to check off all my goals I have set since then.”
Gansert's journey evolved, personally and professionally, as she hadn't originally enlisted as a high-flying boom operator. When she initially joined the Reserve, she was a Personnel Specialist with the 514th Force Support Squadron. “A friend of mine who was also personnel worked at the 78th ARS, they had a vacancy, so I transferred there as a personnelist.” described Gansert. “I saw the whole world of flying, and I had no idea that in-flight refueling was a thing at all. The more I watched crews come and go while they traveled the world. I realized I was in the wrong line of work.”
This re-evaluation of her career commenced into a grueling interview process that resulted in her getting what she calls, “the best job in the Air Force.”
Self-motivation, goal-directedness, and perseverance are a few qualities that describe Gansert. While she aspires to new heights in her own life, she has also inspired others. When asked who gained the most respect for her during her journey, she stated, “probably my brother. He was always the one who was goal-oriented." She goes on to describe having a son at 20 years old and feeling like "he counted me out.” Since embarking on pivotal personal and professional growth she describes that, "every time I have accomplished some kind of milestone, it’s been huge for me -- but I feel it’s been even bigger for him to watch me succeed.”
As Gansert continues to succeed, she attributes her guidance from Chief Master Sgt. Al Crosby, a Flight Engineer Chief, with the 78th Air Refueling Squadron, for her development. “Every time I have second-guessed something, Chief Crosby has sat me down and asked me what I’m doing,” she said. “Anytime I would hesitate, Chief would push me, and there were several times he told me to do something I was less than enthusiastic about, but he would keep me on track.”
As she looks into the future, she jokingly, but confidently responds, “I’ll be a General.” According to her, in the next five years, she hopes to be preparing to sew on the rank of Captain while taking a more hands-on leadership approach to help those in her unit, especially those who may have been 'counted out', as she once had felt.
Gansert emulates a driven, highly-effective leader who embodies characteristics that continue to project her towards a limitless future in the Air Force Reserve. The takeaways for those that strive to do the same, “Don’t take no for an answer" though, she recalls, "it has gotten me into trouble at times.” She concluded that, “Fortunately, right now, the team I have encourages me to question things -- if something doesn’t add up, I always do the research. Nobody looks out for you, like you.”