Advisory Committee

We are thrilled to be working with an advisory committee of Val’s closest friends and fellow female servicewomen who embody the strong leadership qualities and fearlessness that we hope to pass on to future generations of young women.


Mia Hencinski

Name and rank: Captain Mia C. Hencinski, USMC

Hometown: Severna Park, Maryland

Current job and place of residence: Congressional Fellow (USMC) on Capitol Hill; living in Alexandria, Virginia

Brief training history:

  • USNA! Commissioned a 2ndLt in the United States Marine Corps on 28 May 2010 (Annapolis, MD)
  • The Basic School (TBS): September 2010 – March 2011 (Quantico, VA)
  • Logistics Officers’ Course: April 2011 – July 2011 (Camp Johnson, Jacksonville, North Carolina)
  • Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group: August 2011 – August 2014
  • Deployed to the Helmand Province, Afghanistan January 2014 – July 2014 as the Headquarters and Services Company Commander for the Logistics Combat Element

Other hobbies/interests:

  • Traveling – I love to plan trips just as much as I love to take them. I was a travel agent in a former life, I think. My Google Calendar is intimidating to the average planner
  • Reading and listening to everything I can get my hands on. I am an information junkie. I read every kind of book, but only after the news from about seven different sources daily.
  • Mentorship – I am actively involved with the Naval Academy Women’s Network (NAWN), and just started working with students from my high school Alma Mater (Severn School – 2006) who are interested in applying to Service Academies.

How you met/knew Val and one way she inspired you:

Well, it all started on the lacrosse field. Val is the only person who has ever successful shortened my only three letter name; to her, I was “Mi.” A better player than me, Val bounced between the ‘Varsity’ and ‘JV’ ends of the field, spending more time on the former than the latter, while I was JV all the way. On the occasion that Val found herself banished for a practice or two so that the coaches could focus on younger attackers, Val would run up to me and declare, “TODAY IS THE BEST DAY, MI! We get to play together today!” She could find the silver lining in everything. Val showed me that being on the team, and at the Academy, was only partly about your own experience – it was just as much about taking care of the people around you. She taught me that mentorship could be just as fulfilling – or more – than personal accomplishment, and that the two often go hand-in-hand. And that just because one door closes for you, the same one might open for someone you’re close to, and it will be the perfect fit for them. After completing Leatherneck in 2008, the USMC selection training before her First Class Year, Val knew that Marine Aviation wasn’t the path for her. But she saved all her utility uniforms, extra boots, compasses, and field gear for me – almost 10 months before she would convince me to try out Leatherneck for myself. She later told me it was her plan all along (there’s that silver lining) and just look at me now!


Name and rank: LT Jessie Rosa

Hometown: Columbia, MD

Current job and place of residence: Helicopter Weapons and Tactics Instructor, stationed in San Diego, CA

Brief training history: I attended the U.S Naval Academy.  I have been stationed in Pensacola FL, Milton FL, Corpus Christi TX, Japan and San Diego. I have completed 2 deployments: First deployment was in the Persian Gulf, second deployment was in the Western Pacific.

Other hobbies/interests:  Rock climbing, hiking, yoga, triathlons and red wine!

How you met/knew Val and one way she inspired you:  I met Val while playing for the Navy women’s lacrosse team.  It didn’t take us long to discover that we actually grew up in neighboring towns and went to rival high schools!  She inspired me to keep working hard on the lacrosse team and was the reason that I continued playing.  Val was also the best at keeping in touch no matter where in the world we were or how busy she was.  I am grateful for all the letters, emails and care packages she sent when I was on deployment, all while planning a wedding!  Val was such a caring and lovely person, inside and out, and I am so grateful for her friendship.

deployment (2)

Sarah Bushong

Name and rank: Sarah Bushong

Hometown: Havre de Grace, MD

Current job and place of residence: Junior Officer Leadership Program, General Electric and Saratoga Springs, NY

Brief training history: I went to the Naval Academy (c/o ’09), then to The Basic School in Quantico, VA. I moved to Lejeune, NC, went to Logistics Officers Course and deployed with the 22d MEU, followed by a year in Bahrain. I moved back to Quantico, VA and did one year at the Marine Corps University before I got out and started a job at General Electric.

Other hobbies/interests: Hiking, traveling, skiing, and reading

How you met/knew Val and one way she inspired you: I met Val while we were both playing lacrosse at Navy and she inspired me by always being willing to reach out to others when she needed help. She was a really tough, really smart girl who always did well, but she didn’t pretend that everything came easily or that she did it alone. She depended a lot on her friends and family for support.


Mary Ruttum

Name and rank: LT Mary Ruttum

Hometown: Annapolis, MD

Current job and place of residence: Navy Pilot, VFA-81, Virginia Beach, VA

Brief training history:

USNA Class of 2010, VT-3 (Milton, FL), VT-21 (Kingsville, TX), VFA-106 (Oceana, VA)

Deployed August 2014-June 2015 Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (Persian Gulf, Iraq, Syria)

Hobbies/Interests: Reading, Going to the beach, returning home to Annapolis to see family, skiing

How you met/knew Val and one way she inspired you: I met Val on my first day of lacrosse practice at the Naval Academy in the fall of 2006. I looked up to her from that point on and seemed to follow her lead through flight school. She was always the person I consulted before making any huge move or career decision because she explained all my options. She was always there to pick me up when I felt discouraged in the challenging aviation pipeline and constantly reminded me that she was behind me 100%, which made all the difference on those tough days. Val is a constant reminder that there are few obstacles you can’t overcome with good friends and a persevering attitude.

OIR Flight

Katharine “KC” Binder

Name and Rank: LT Katharine C. Binder

Hometown: Eau Claire, WI

Current job and place of residence: Hawkeye Pilot at VAW-125, Virginia Beach, VA

Brief training history:

  • Aug 2010-Jan 2011 API/IFS training Pensacola, Florida
  • Jan 2011- Sep 2011 Primary Flight Training at VT-27, Corpus Christi, TX
  • Sep 2011-Oct 2012 Intermediate Flight Training at VT-7, Meridian, MS
  • Oct 2012- Feb 2013 Advance Flight Training at VT-31, Corpus Christ, TX
  • Feb 2013- Feb 2014 FRS at VAW-120, Norfolk, VA
  • Feb 2014- Present VAW-125
  • Deployment: Mar 2015- Present with Carrier Strike Group Twelve in support of Operation Inherent Resolve

Other hobbies/interests: Running, working out, cooking, traveling

How you met/knew Val and one way she inspired you: 

I met Val the day that I moved to Meridian Mississippi for flight training.  We had talked on the phone a few times prior to this, I was extremely apprehensive to start training in jet training in Median and Val took the time to talk to me about her experiences and made me feel so much better about my decision and excited to go to Meridian.  Val and I were immediate friends when I got to Meridian and she was such an inspiration to me both professionally and personally.  I went to the Crossfit Gym in Meridian with Val and she always pushed me, especially when it comes to pullups.  I still find strength from Val on hard workouts when I want to give up.  Val lived with me during her last few months in Meridian and she was such a beautiful example of someone who took the time to tell others how much she cared and seem to do everything with amazing grace.


Kaylene Klingenstein Carter


Alex Dietrich Green


Danielle Thiriot Huber


Erin Rawlick

Name & Rank: LT Erin Rawlick
Hometown: Bel Air, MD
Current job and place of residence: stationed at NAS Whidbey Island as an EP-3 and P-3 Pilot in VQ-1; living in Anacortes, WA.
Training History:
  • Primary flight training in VT-27 out of Corpus Christi, TX
  • Advanced flight training in VT-31 out of Corpus Christi, TX
  • Fleet Readiness Squadron (learned to fly the P-3) at VP-30 in Jacksonville, FL
  • First operational squadron (VQ-1), where I have deployed to Souda Bay, Greece twice, Sigonella, Italy, and Okinawa, Japan.
  • Will be going back to VP-30 in February to learn to fly the P-8 and be an FRS instructor in Jacksonville, FL.
  • Coach a young girls lacrosse team (grades pre-K through 4th)
  • Play in a women’s lacrosse league (Currently Pacific Northwest Champs!)
  • Hiking/being outside
  • Skiing (definitely going to miss that in Jacksonville)
  • Singing and playing guitar
How I met/knew Val:
Val was the very first upperclassmen that I met after I completed plebe summer.  I was playing lacrosse wallball when she came up and introduced herself.  We bonded instantly and she became a roll model, mentor, and best friend throughout my four years at the Naval Academy.  She remained a best friend even after graduation where she continued to provide advice on flight training and life in the fleet.  She was one of the main reasons I decided to become a pilot and pursue aviation myself.  When I selected P-3s and found out I was going to Whidbey Island, I was lucky enough to live with Val and Sean for about 3 months before moving into my own house.  Living close to Val again was the greatest gift.  Valerie was an inspiration to me from the day we met.  Her kindness, loyalty, and strength are qualities I always strive to emulate.  Not only did she inspire me to become a pilot, but she inspires me still to be a better person and friend.

Caitlin Hill


Katrina Nietsch

Name & Rank: Katrina Nietsch, Lieutenant

Hometown: New Canaan, CT
Current job: Navy pilot in VRC-30 in Coronado, CA (San Diego)
Training history: I went to school at the lovely Shipwreck Tech aka the US Naval Academy. I was originally stationed in Pensacola, FL for flight training then moved to Corpus Christi, TX and Kingsville, TX where I received my wings. I went to the FRS in Norfolk, VA and am now in beautiful sunny San Diego, CA. I am about to deploy in early September with the USS George Washington. We are escorting the carrier and flying logistics missions around South America. (Should be fun!)
Hobbies/interests: Lacrosse, music (piano), skiing, soccer, tennis, ice hockey, traveling, hiking, SCUBA diving, and horseback riding.
How I met and knew Val: We first met when I was a young plebe over Plebe Summer. Although we got off on the wrong foot (we would still laugh about that), once Val returned from the French Naval Academy, we quickly became friends and she took me under her wing as a mentor and best friend. I remember doing Bible studies with Val, one on one discussions about my goals at the Academy and in life, and we would often just chat over microwave dinners about life, love, and how to be a better person. Val quickly became one of those people in my life that was beyond most superficial friends, as we had so much in common and I could bounce ideas and problems off of her without having to worry about what she thought about me. That continued until the end of her life as someone that I could call at any moment’s notice if I had had a bad flight, and was curious about her opinion on something. Above all, she was an unbelievable friend that was there through it all.
How I have been inspired by Val: She inspired me to be a better individual and to seek spirituality in the way that she sought it- without an open heart She was one of those people that always made things better and knew the right thing to say. She was extremely humble, yet so gifted in so many ways. She also wasn’t afraid to speak up and hold me accountable if I was doing something stupid. One fond memory I have of Val is her and Sean coming to visit me while I was in Pensacola, FL. She flew her T-45 in to the airfield solo and after her flight, showed me around the cockpit. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and boy did I feel cool that she was showing me everything! I remember how young I felt because she was a Lieutenant JG and I was just an Ensign at the time and hadn’t started flying yet. We had a wonderful weekend and Sean drove down to come hang out. They ended up cooking this elaborate bruschetta at my house only to burn the bread in the oven!
Val inspired me in all ways of life to just be better and be kind to everyone. Whether that involved flying, going to church, or being a good friend, she was the example for it all. But one thing I also really loved about her was the love that she shared with Sean. Their relationship and love for each other was something so amazing. I still try and use that as an example in my life. The way that they cared about each other and laughed and loved, you would have thought that they had just met. It was truly remarkable. Their relationship inspired me to have one that fosters the same values.