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NEWS | April 15, 2024

JB Charleston selects “Hometown Hero” for Thunderbirds F-16 flight

628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston named Teresa Chrapkiewicz as this year’s Hometown Hero, recognizing her remarkable character and significant contributions to the Charleston community.

Base representatives received more than 200 Hometown Hero nominations, which offers a chance to ride in the back seat of a Thunderbird F-16 Fighting Falcon on April 18, prior to the “Heroes of Flight” Airshow on April 20-21.

Teresa Chrapkiewicz, a dedicated teacher, published author, Air Force veteran, community volunteer and the first female Navajo pilot, has been selected for this opportunity.

The announcement was made by Col. Michael Freeman, 628th Air Base Wing and Joint Base Charleston commander, who surprised Teresa at work in front of her colleagues, highlighting her exceptional service and dedication to the Lowcountry.

“Teresa stood out among hundreds of nominees for her selflessness and impact on the community, making her well-deserved of our Hometown Hero title.” Freeman said.

JB Charleston received 17 separate Hometown Hero nominations for Chrapkiewicz from fellow teachers, volunteers, and her students. Not only is Teresa a science teacher at Rise Academy, a secondary alternative education program, but she also dedicates her weekends to feeding the hungry through River Ministry, a program she co-founded with a close friend.

“My science teacher works very hard,” said one of Teresa’s students who submitted a nomination letter on her behalf. “Mrs. Chrapkiewicz speaks to me like a mother and a friend. She is wise and always willing to help me.”

Teresa actively supports the South Carolina Department of Children Advocacy and is involved with the Cass, Elias MacArthur Guardian Ad Litem program, supporting children in the Summerville court system.

She holds the distinction of being the first Navajo female pilot to obtain a pilot’s license and has authored a children’s book detailing her journey. Additionally, Teresa volunteers at local schools, sharing her book and encouraging the next generation to pursue their dreams, particularly aspiring aviators.

Furthermore, Teresa is a U.S. Air Force veteran, having served in the Reserve at Luke Air Force Base and the Arizona Air National Guard as a life support technician.

"I’m so thankful for this opportunity. I’m thankful for my friends who nominated me and I give glory to my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t have had my dreams come true without him.” Chrapkiewicz said.