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DU Prepares Alumna for the Marines

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Maria Kuntz

Avery Crisp is one of the few female pilots in the military



MV-22 B Osprey helicopter
MV-22 B Osprey helicopter

Capt. Avery (Denney) Crisp (BSBA ’12) always dreamed of flying planes, but she never imagined DU would put her on a path to making that dream a reality. She was raised in western Colorado, where she skied with her family and played volleyball, basketball, soccer and track throughout high school. This athleticism proved to be one of the keys to achieving her childhood dream.

Capt. Avery Crisp
Capt. Avery Crisp

As a first-year student, Crisp joined the Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP) and declared a major in international business with a minor in finance. Near the end of her sophomore year, she was leaving a business class presentation when she decided to join a few classmates heading to the Nonprofit and Government Career and Internship Fair.

When she arrived, something unexpected caught her attention: a Marine standing in front of a poster of F-18 fighter jets. Crisp and the Marine started talking about planes, her athletic background and her involvement in PLP. After a second meeting to talk about careers in the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Crisp took the physical fitness test, did really well and decided to pursue the Marines by attending Officer Candidate’s School (OCS).

Most of her peers who were pursuing OCS were engaged in campus-based ROTC programs and attended OCS in two segments split over two summers. However, Crisp, like many DU students, was headed abroad her junior year and opted for a grueling 10-week program during the summer between her junior and senior years. She said it was “awful, a lot of physical stress for females,” but she persisted and was one of the only 40 percent of women to complete the program. In retrospect, she didn’t quite know what she was getting herself into, but her mental and physical toughness helped her to persevere, just as they would in the years of training ahead.

Having taken the first and perhaps most arduous steps toward her dream, Crisp began a three-and-a-half-year training program in January 2013 when she was officially commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the USMC. Next, she attended the Basic School, Flight School, Advanced Preflight Instruction and Primary Training. Throughout training, she learned to swim a mile loaded down by 25 pounds of gear and to survive hypoxia in a test chamber (to simulate loss of cabin pressure when cruising at 29,000 feet). She learned to fly powerful single-engine and prop-rotor planes, how to recover from stalls, stabilize an out of control aircraft, conduct barrel rolls, fly in the clouds and in formation with other aircraft and to master the MV-22 B Osprey, the helicopter that she flies today.

Crisp poses for a picture with her parents after being promoted to Captain.
Crisp poses for a picture with her parents after being promoted to Captain.

In October 2016, after three years of training, Crisp received her pilot’s wings, making her one of the few female pilots in the U.S. armed forces. According to the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide, only 5.65 percent of pilots are women across all branches of the military. In October 2017, she was promoted to captain at an air show in Grand Junction, attended by her family.

Crisp credits DU and PLP with giving her the opportunities and the foundation to succeed. “Learning about leadership at a young age was instrumental to my ability to get through OCS and TBS because the Marine Corps leadership style is unique among the armed services,” she said. “We take care of our junior Marines. We let junior Marines eat first, and that was backed up by PLP. In PLP we learned about different ways to lead, but one that stuck is servant leadership. We (Marines) lead from behind, putting those who you are leading first.”

On becoming a pilot, Crisp said, “I’d always wanted to fly. It felt like it was meant to happen. If I hadn’t gone to the career fair, I wouldn’t have joined the Marine Corps, and flight school never would have happened.”

Crisp is currently stationed in Miramar, Calif., where she continues to train until her deployment in October 2018.