NEWS | July 7, 2022

Profiles in Professionalism: Capt. Eilis Cancel

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Debra Thomas

Capt. Eilis Cancel, commanding officer, Naval Forces Europe-Africa N5 Reserve Detachment, loves her country and loves flying helicopters. A literal and figurative “high-flyer” in the U.S. Navy Reserve, she has set her sights on inspiring the next generation.
Upon graduating from the Naval Academy in 1999, Cancel selected aviation and went to flight school to earn her wings.
“I always found myself proud to be an American,” said Cancel. “I’m proud of my country and what we stand for — freedom of religion, freedom of speech — and I’ve always felt it was my duty to ensure that those liberties are secure for all of us in America, and that America continues to provide an example of those things to the world.”
Cancel touts flying MH-60 helicopters in the Persian Gulf with the “Screaming Indians” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Six and sailing aboard USS Ronald Regan (CVN 76) on its inaugural voyage around South America as the two main highlights of her active-duty career.
Cancel transferred from active duty to the Navy Reserve in 2008, after which she became a civilian flight instructor where she continued to share her love of flying with her students. She has also continued to flourish as a leader and has served multiple tours in the Navy Reserve as a commanding officer.
“I really enjoy flying helicopters, I loved the mission,” said Cancel. “I loved serving my country, and I wanted to keep doing that.”
Cancel also used the citizen-Sailor aspect of her Navy Reserve career to enable her to teach in another way. She now teaches middle school Spanish and is taking graduate courses in education.
 “Teachers have always made a big impression on me,” Cancel said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to impact people’s lives and help them make good decisions — maybe inspire them to join the Navy?”
When asked about the difference between teaching pilots and teaching middle schoolers, Cancel reflects that there’s surprisingly little difference.
“I think I take some of my military demeanor into the classroom, which the middle school kids appreciate because I treat them more like adults, but I also have very high standards. That mutual respect makes them want to meet those standards.”
In the classroom, on the flight line, or serving as a commanding officer, Cancel brings the same dedication and motivation to everything she does.
“First and foremost, I think of myself as a Sailor in the Navy, like any other,” Cancel said. “I just always try to be straightforward and do my best, serve my country, and help other people.”