Instructor combat systems officer serves openly with pride

  • Published
  • By Benjamin Faske
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Maj. Kiersten “Clicks” Thompson is an instructor combat systems officer at the 479th Flying Training Group at Naval Air Station- Pensacola, Florida. Thompson is an advocate for the Air Force’s diversity and inclusion and female fitment initiatives.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in College Station but was raised in Houston, Texas. I graduated from Pearland High School in Pearland, Texas, in 2006.

What piqued your interest in the Air Force and flying?

Both of my grandfathers served in the military, so I grew up being fascinated by their stories. My dad was also a history buff, so my childhood was rooted in hearing things about serving and the military. I never really grasped that I wanted to serve until I was recruited to play volleyball at the United States Air Force Academy.

I attended the Academy in 2010 but decided it was not a good fit for me and returned to Houston to continue playing volleyball. However, there was something pulling me back to the Air Force, so I applied to Texas State University and signed up for Reserve Officer Training Corps at Detachment 840 in San Marcos.

I never had given much thought to flying, but I just knew I wanted to be an officer. It took my cadre, Maj. Jim Cohn, telling me that I had the grades and scored high enough on the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test that I could be an aviator.

The simple act of him believing in me and emboldening me to apply set the trajectory of my career. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that that you “can” do something.

What has been your experience in the Air Force so far?

After graduating from Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer Training, I went to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to be a weapons systems officer on the B-1B Lancer. I spent most of my career flying B-1s and it was an incredible and humbling experience.

Now, I’m an Instructor CSO at Naval Air Station-Pensacola training our next generation of CSOs. It’s been a really rewarding assignment in a beautiful place. As soon as I graduated, I knew I wanted to come back here and instruct.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

It means being able to serve, and more importantly lead, as my true and authentic self. I lived through the trauma of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” I had to hide who I was for fear of losing my career and I had to completely misrepresent myself.

This year celebrates 10 years since DADT was repealed, which gave me and countless others the pride and confidence we needed to truly excel as valued members of the military. When I joined the Air Force, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I couldn’t fathom the impact of not being able to share my life openly with my wingmen as they could with me. 

Ten years later, now that I can be myself, I can’t imagine my life any differently. I’d go back and do it all over again. For Pride Month, I celebrate the ability to serve my country proudly and openly.

What are your thoughts on the Air Forces Diversity and Inclusion initiatives?

I’ve been an advocate for D&I initiatives and Female Fitment issues. With D&I, I have either set up, or been a part of, women’s and LGBTQ+ mentorship programs.

I think representation is incredibly important in growing our Airmen. If a young Airmen or high school student can see me as a successful military officer being both a female and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, they know that they have the same opportunities.

Additionally, I was lucky enough to be the “Bomber” representative for AFWERX, working Female Aviator Fitment issues. This has been an issue for as long as females have been in the cockpit and we have made great strides the past few years. I’ve truly found my calling advocating for these initiatives.

Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

A mom, a wife, and a leader serving in the world’s greatest Air Force.