When Army Capt. Katherine Morris graduated from high school in 2000, she never dreamed she'd be flying Black Hawk helicopters in combat, let alone teaching others how.
Morris, who prefers being called Katie, is stationed at Fort Rucker, Ala., at the Army's Aviation Center of Excellence. This is the base where the Army teaches its aviators how to fly Black Hawk helicopters.
On May 16, Morris was named aide-de-camp to the two-star general who commands the Aviation Center, Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield. The job is an honor and a privilege, she said. It's much like being the general's chief of staff.
The 28-year-old was back in Charleston recently to address the 2011 graduating class at her high school, First Baptist School in Charleston.
She said she told the students to remember their roots.
"Remember where you came from," she said. "First Baptist is a wonderful school. They really lay a foundation for you and teach you the values and principles. Having the Lord as your foundation is very important and they really preach that there."
She said the values she learned at First Baptist, as well as at Carson-Newman College, a Christian college in Tennessee, have served her well in her military career.
"When you put your name on something, you do it 100 percent," she said. "I was given a foundation, and Biblical principles. For me, it's been huge to go back to that and say, you know, you can't compromise between right and wrong."
Morris said she didn't plan on joining the military when she started college.
"I played basketball in college, and when I stopped doing that, I started jogging," she said.
A lot of the people in her jogging class were in ROTC, so she gravitated toward the ROTC program.
When she graduated from Carson-Newman in 2004, as a second lieutenant in the Army, she tried to get an exciting job in the Army, she said.
"I told them I wanted something different," she said. "I didn't want to be sharpening pencils. I wanted something women usually did not do. They said, 'Why don't you fly?' "
She went to Fort Rucker for flight school, then served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, from 2008 to 2009.
"It was pretty intense, but I am alive," she said. "It was a very different experience over there. You learn a lot about yourself very quickly and early on."
While in Afghanistan, she flew Black Hawks on combat missions. "I also drove a truck," she said. "Whatever they needed us to do, we did."
Actually, the vehicle she drove in Afghanistan was more than a truck. It was a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP.
"I like the MRAPs because they are made in Charleston," she said, referring to vehicles manufactured by locally based Force Protection Inc.
Born in Raleigh, Morris lived for a time in Texas before moving to Mount Pleasant when she was in the fifth grade. A daughter of Michael and Cindy Morris of Mount Pleasant, Katie's siblings also are in the military. Her brother is in the Air Force and her sister is in the Coast Guard.