Where was Rep. Tammy Duckworth at 25?

May 14, 2013

At 25, U.S. representative Tammy Duckworth was just beginning her career as a helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard - a bit sooner than she originally expected.

Usually, she says, it was about a  year-long wait before you could get into flight school.

But when she got the call in 1993 that a spot was open last minute at Fort Rucker, Alabama, she packed up her bags and left Chicago, reporting to duty just three days later.

That is, after a quick stop to the Justice of the Peace to marry her then-boyfriend.

Year 25

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“I did not want to go to flight school and do something that dangerous and my husband not have rights in case I was injured or wounded or hurt,” Duckworth said.

They had a full wedding ceremony later that summer.

So off she went, incredibly focused on becoming a helicopter pilot and not at all thinking about the office on Capitol Hill she sits in now.

The Illinois Congresswoman sat down with WBEZ’s Lauren Chooljian in Washington, D.C., to tell the story of 25-year-old Tammy Duckworth.

She reflects on what flight school was like, some of her favorite memories from that year and how it got her where she is today.

“I thought I would be commanding an assault helicopter battalion,” Duckworth said. “I have, you know a little ache in my heart when I think of my peers who are now at that point and I’m not. But this is a pretty good gig I have now, too.”

Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ’s Morning Producer and Reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian.