Payton Hancock has already achieved a lot in her young life.
She is a recent Virginia Tech University graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, has served four years in the Corps of Cadets in the Civilian Leadership program, and has a private pilot’s license. And on June 20, 2023, Payton Hancock became an officer of the Coast Guard, commissioned by none other than her father, retired commander and helicopter pilot, Richard Hancock.
“An officer, either retired or active duty, must administer the oath. You raise your right hand and complete the oath. salute each other, and then they place the shoulder boards on,” Payton Hancock said.
The ceremony was held at Payton’s home neighborhood in Smithfield, Va., on a boat dock with family and friends in attendance. It is a fitting place for someone that loves family and being near the water, two big reasons that led Payton to choose the Coast Guard.
“The Coast Guard is under Homeland Security,” Payton Hancock said, speaking of the differences that set it apart from other military branches. “I am also interested in Coast Guard because it is smaller and family-oriented but also on the water, I don’t want to ever be away from that. It also has a home/life balance that is easier.”
Payton’s father, Richard Hancock, served as a retired commander and helicopter pilot with the Coast Guard which made a big impact on Payton growing up. She had a desire to be an aviator ever since she was young. Her father would take her flying and show her things like how the controls worked and let her get the feel of the plane’s yoke, under his watchful guidance of course.
“My dad had his private pilot’s license and instead of driving for family trips he would rent small planes and fly us,” Hancock said.
Payton Hancock now wants to become a helicopter pilot as well and conduct search and rescue missions for the Coast Guard.
Gary Sayre, former Navy officer, has more recently worked with the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary in the New River Valley. Sayre met Hancock through the program as she completed training and spoke of Payton’s incredible determination to achieve the goals she has set for herself, and ultimately to be a pilot for the Coast Guard.
“Payton is very focused and has a type-A personality; a mission-oriented mentality,” Sayre said. “My impression is that she will do a very good job in the Coast Guard.”
Sayre went on to explain Hancock’s strict work ethic and seriousness when it comes to getting the job done, which is also seen in her desire to focus on rescue and humanitarian missions. These types of pilots called into provide rescue, in often dangerous situations like hurricanes, downed aircraft or vessels in the water, are called “Angels”.
“My first duty station is in New Orleans as a Command Watch Officer, coordinating and managing search and rescue,” Hancock said. “That is in District 8 which covers from Mexico to the panhandle of Florida, basically the whole Gulf of Mexico.”
She doesn’t have her final report date but is preparing to leave before the end of the summer. For now, though, she plans to enjoy some time with family, see friends, and spend time on the beach.
“Getting some down time is nice,” Hancock said.