Deborah Turley (BS ’96) first dreamed of being a pilot while in high school. After completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology at BYU, she still had the yearning to fly, so she joined the Marine Corps to become a pilot.

Flight school turned Turley on to helicopters. “I like their maneuverability,” she says. She had her eye on the CH-53, a heavy-lift helicopter that transports cargo and troops. “You’re never guaranteed what you will be assigned,” she says, “but I got what I wanted.”

Deborah Turley pilot

Even after two tours in Iraq and 1,200 flight hours, Marine helicopter pilot Deborah Turley hasn’t had her fill of flying.

After serving on a Hawaii military base, she got the call to work in Iraq, where she transported troops, supplies, and mail. At times the schedule was demanding, requiring daily flights that could be announced at any time. “Fortunately for me, during my two tours in Iraq I . . . never [came] under attack,” Turley says. “The military is very particular about the routes we take.”

Turley also participated in maintenance flights. “I flew repaired aircraft to make sure they performed properly. They have to be in ready condition,” she emphasizes.

Turley eventually rose to the level of division leader, a position in which she could lead more than three helicopters, and has served as a flight instructor. She has amassed 1,200 flight hours throughout her Marine Corps career.

Since returning from Iraq she’s had her feet on the ground as an operations officer at the Marine Corps Recruiting Command. But that doesn’t mean she’s gotten flying out of her system. “Even though I am not flying right now,” she says, “the desire never leaves.”