By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
2nd Lt. Kayla Bowers has a great deal in common with her fellow students in Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 13-13.
All are young, smart, disciplined, motivated and eager to become military pilots.
But Bowers is the only woman in the class of nearly 30 Air Force, Navy, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve students.
That is not something she thinks a great deal about, said the native of Pinckney, Mich.
“For me, I don’t even really notice it,” she said. “I grew up hanging out with a lot of guys. My best friend growing up was my male cousin, Evan.”
Bowers said she grew up “doing things that traditionally don’t fit the female gender role, so it’s really no different for me.”
She was inspired to join the military by her great-grandfather, who was a B-17 pilot during World War II.
“I don’t come from a military family, but I’ve always been raised to be very patriotic,” she said.
She considers the military “a calling.”
“Just one day you think to yourself, ‘I want to do that,’” she said. “At least that’s how it happened for me. I knew I wanted to serve my country.”
The desire to become a military pilot came shortly thereafter, she said.
After graduating from Dexter High School, Bowers attended Indiana University, where she was part of the ROTC program.
She was a three-sport athlete in high school, was in the marching band and was a member of the honor society.
“I was very busy in high school,” she said.
She grew up hunting, playing tennis, golf and softball, and was a member of her school’s equestrian team. Her love of riding horses continues today.
In fact, she has brought her horse with her to northwest Oklahoma. The horse, which is stabled near Enid, is a retired thoroughbred racehorse named Far Out Style, a bay gelding foaled in Kentucky.
“He goes with me everywhere I go,” she said. “I brought him with me to school in Indiana, and I brought him with me out here. I fully intend on bringing him wherever I go next.”
The foal of Far Out East and Agitated Style made 71 racing starts and posted five victories, racking up $36,839 in career earnings. But once their racing careers are over, many retired racehorses face neglect, abuse, even slaughter.
Fortunately, there are organizations that help retired thoroughbreds find a good home, and it was through one of those groups that Bowers came to team up with Far Out Style.
“You can get really good horses with a lot of potential for really cheap,” she said. “As long as you’re willing to put the training in, because obviously when you get them, all they know how to do is run fast and turn left.”
While at IU, Bowers met her husband, Nick, who is in the Army stationed at Fort Sill and is about to become a 1st lieutenant.
Nick Bowers is a platoon leader and field artillery officer. Kayla said there are advantages and drawbacks of having a spouse who also is in the military.
“It’s been hard for us because we spend so much time apart,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to live a normal married life.
“At the same time, there’s a lot of things that he really understands that I think civilians tend to have a lot harder time understanding, like the hours and the commitments and things like that.”
When they do have time to talk, the couple speaks the same language, Kayla said.
“He also knows about the stresses and all that, and you can talk to him about your job and he understands,” she said. “You usually have to explain acronyms and thing like that, so that’s kind of fun.”
Kayla grew up on a chain of lakes where her great-grandfather, the ex-B-17 pilot, had started a marina. The marina has been in the family for more than 50 years, so she grew up skiing and boating on the lakes.