Compassion drives future KC-46 pilot

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Timothy Hayden
  • 157thARW Public Affairs

Last March, a motorcyclist collided with an SUV on a rural back road in Newmarket. Kirsten Arends, a command post specialist for the 157th Air Refueling Wing, happened to be driving by just after the accident occurred.

“I pulled over to see if there was anything I could do,” the staff sergeant recalled. “And me being me, I grabbed a small first aid kit from my car and went over to see how I could help.”

Despite not having any formal paramedic training, Arends remembered the self-aid-buddy-care methods she learned from basic military training. She saw that the motorcyclist was laying on the ground in pain. A bone in his leg was so severely fractured it protruded from his pants. A few other motorists had stopped to help but emergency personnel had not arrived on the scene. After assessing the extent of the injury, Arends grabbed a tourniquet she kept in her vehicle.

“His injury was producing a lot of blood,” Arends said. “Everyone around him was just talking about what to do. It was very chaotic. And at that point I just said ‘he needs a tourniquet now.’”

In the ensuing minutes, first responders arrived and treated the downed motorcyclist. “I asked the paramedics if he was going to be okay,” Arends said. “And they told me that we had given him the best chance of living.”

For Arends, helping others seems to be a part of her DNA. The only child of a social worker from Harrison, New York, Arends credits her mother with instilling that fierce sense of selflessness.

“I grew up with my mom in a one bedroom apartment in New York.” Arends said. “My mom slept on the sofa for eight years so I could have my own room. She sacrificed a lot so that I could have a good education.”

Arends attended a military boarding school in high school. There, she was exposed to military culture for the first time. That experience gave Arends a desire to serve in the military, but it was not her only source of motivation. Growing up 30 minutes west of New York City, Arends was directly affected by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

“Some of my friends lost parents that day, so it was a very impactful event.” Arends said, “After that I knew I wanted to join the military.”

While pursuing a degree in social work at the University of New Hampshire, Arends enlisted in the NH Air National Guard in 2011. Initially joining the base supply section at Pease, she now works at the command post. This is a group of specialists who deal in emergency management. They monitor flights. They are the eyes and ears of the base and the Wing Commander.

“Kirsten has many personable qualities,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Connery, NCOIC of command post operations. “She’s known in the office for her empathy and genuine concern for others.”

Her desire to help others was evident even in the field of study she chose. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Arends earned her bachelor degree in social work in 2016. She went on to earn her master degree this past May.

“Education has always been really important for my family.” Arends said. Her resume will soon broaden to include officer training school as well and flight training. She was selected to be a future pilot of the KC-46 Pegasus.

“I am proud to be a member of the 157th,” Arends said. “It is an honor to put on the uniform every day – and follow in the footsteps of giants.”

When she is not hard at work in the command post or preparing for her future career, Arends enjoy hanging out with friends. A resident of Exeter, Arends also likes to help in her local community. She is a member of a human resource-funding group that supplies money to several well-known charitable organizations.

“I have always been a driven person,” Arends said. “Even on my days off I like to fill them with something meaningful and productive.”

For her efforts last March helping the injured motorcyclist, Arends was recently awarded the Air National Guard Commendation Medal.

“I’m not surprised at her ability and willingness to respond and react in such a brave manner,” Connery said.