By Shirley Shuman
Tiffani Huffman has, since she first started playing basketball, been a team player. She has also always worked to excel within that team as she has done with the West Virginia State Police. From her first assignment as a WV State Police road trooper to her current job, Huffman has loved being a member of the team.
She enjoys it even more as a helicopter pilot.
The Braxton native is more than just a helicopter pilot, however. She pilots the Bell Jet Ranger, and she’s the only WV state female trooper who has achieved that status. While that fact may impress others, it does not especially impress Huffman. What does impress her is flying this particular helicopter although she admits it’s a demanding job. “When I’m on duty, I work my shift and go home, but I’m still on duty,” she said. “As pilot for the Bell Jet Ranger, I have to be ready to move 24-7.
And she loves it.
Her first time piloting the helicopter, she “was in shock,” she said. “If you’d told me 10 years ago that’s what I’d be doing with my life, I would never have believed it. It just felt surreal.”
How did this young woman, the daughter of Tim and Brenda Huffman, get from Braxton County to piloting a helicopter for the WV State Police? She explained the route she took. “Of course, I played basketball for Braxton and then for Glenville State——and I had been playing long before that. My plans through college were to become a basketball coach, but I had played basketball too long. I needed a break,” she said.
In making a choice for what to do with her life, she looked “for something bigger than [herself]” and she looked toward law enforcement. “I looked toward local law enforcement, but the state police hired me first,” she said. That worked. She had a team, and she belonged to something bigger than herself.
After graduating from the state police academy, her first assignment, at age 23. was as a road trooper in Jackson County. She liked that job, she noted, and worked there for seven years. Next came Kanawha County. “Same job, faster pace,” she said. During her time in Kanawha, she became a Tactical Flight Officer. “That position involved going up with one pilot at night to assist with various duties,” she explained. Then, in 2021, she was “hired on as a pilot,” she said. “They taught us tactical flight officers to fly in case something happened to the pilot.”
Next came piloting the Bell Jet Ranger. Trooper first class Huffman’s current duty is flying this helicopter. She explained that the helicopter itself “isn’t really a different helicopter,” and added, “It just contains special equipment for police work.” This particular assignment is important to Trooper Huffman, partly because she loves the flying. However, that isn’t the real importance.
“It’s the opportunity to fly the helicopter and be in uniform, to still be part of the State Police,” she said. “I’m proud because I’ve been a part of a team ever since I can remember. Everything I do, I do for that patch on my shoulder; it signifies something bigger than me.” Huffman concluded, “I’m happy with what I’m doing; I’m doing what I want to do.”