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Pursuing two dreams keeps Vance instructor pilot very busy

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cassidy Fisher
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Capt. Kyele Bridel grew up with two dreams. Become an Air Force pilot and play soccer professionally. She has accomplished the first and is continuously striving toward the second.

Bridel is assigned to the 33rd Flying Training Squadron at Vance Air Force Base as a T-6 Texan II instructor pilot. She is also a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Women’s Soccer team. 

Learning to balance the two was nothing new. She just swapped a college gig for the flying one when she commissioned. 

“In college, the professional life was school and everything else was on the side. You had to balance it all in terms of practice and fitness,” Bridel said. “I developed decent habit patterns for how things are now in terms of the tempo here and working out each day. I’m used to it now.” 

Claiming Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as home, she grew up playing soccer and won a Division III soccer national championship in 2012 at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Soccer was a steady constant in her life.

Both parents were KC-135 Stratotanker pilots. She knew she wanted to join the Air Force eventually but wasn’t sure when that time would come. 

“I was given pretty good advice by my parents since they were military pilots. My dad commissioned through Officer Training School and my mom was prior-enlisted,” said Bridel. “She went to school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and got picked up for the pilot board and commissioning.”

Her parents told her that she didn’t need to go to the U.S. Air Force Academy or ROTC if she didn’t want to. There were other routes to an Air Force commission. She decided to attend Messiah University with plans to enter Officer Training School upon graduation. 

“I studied physics and kept above a 3.0 grade point average to keep my scholarship and have a competitive OTS package,” Bridel said. “As soon as I graduated, I submitted that package. They needed physics majors to be operations research analysts. My parents told me I could apply for the active-duty pilot board once I was in.” 

After graduating from OTS, Bridel headed to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, to be an operations research analyst.

She kept up her soccer skills while she applied for the active-duty pilot boards. Her dreams of becoming a pilot and a professional soccer player, were still very much intact. 

“My boss was a former F-22 Raptor pilot and supported me throughout the whole application process,” Bridel said. 

The board accepted her application the first time she applied and after two years at Kirtland AFB, she pinned on first lieutenant and headed to Vance AFB to attend pilot training. 

She graduated in the top half of her class and was chosen to stay at Vance and become an instructor pilot. 

“As soon as I graduated pilot training, there was a window for tryouts for the Armed Forces Women’s Soccer team that year,” Bridel said. “I made the team and have stuck with it for the past three years. 

“The girls are awesome; we all get along so well. It becomes sort of like, ‘yeah, we enjoy playing soccer, but our friendships are primarily why we stick around,’” she said. 

Her hard work has certainly paid off since Bridel was recently named the 2022 Department of the Air Force Female Athlete of the Year. 

Being an instructor pilot and on the Armed Forces Soccer Team have their share of similarities. Just like on the soccer field, instructing student pilots presents unique challenges that keep her thinking on her feet. And it’s the team that keeps all the commotion under control. 

“I enjoy being on a team. I like the culture and dynamic of a healthy team environment. I think that’s when everyone’s the most productive,” Bridel said. 

Accountability is an important attribute for success and Bridel keeps herself accountable with her fitness routine for both flying and soccer. She makes sure to work out five to six days a week. She runs a lot since it benefits her for both flying and soccer. She also works in some weightlifting and bodyweight movements. 

“Abdominal exercises to keep a strong core translates nicely when I’m having to control my breathing, whether in the plane or playing on the field,” she said.

Living a healthy lifestyle is important to Bridel. And having a strong support system while pursuing both her dreams is equally important. “I have a great support team here at Vance, and I'm thankful for that. I am also very thankful for a unit that allows me time to play a sport that I truly love.”