If you are looking for Kira von Steinbergs, you might find her soaring through the skies above Kāne'ohe Bay, Hawaii, in a MH-60 Seahawk. Commissioned into the U.S. Navy in January 2018, she earned her wings of gold and the official title of Naval Aviator in July 2020.
von Steinbergs’ remarkable journey to becoming a pilot actually began back in 2013 when she embarked on her first solo flight a few short miles from Berkshire’s campus at the Walter J. Koladza Airport in Great Barrington, Mass.
Following Berkshire, von Steinbergs pursued a Spanish studies major with a concentration in Portuguese studies at the University of Arizona. She also minored in Russian studies and military leadership and sciences, graduating in December 2017.
As good fortune would have it, she met her future husband, Abraão Magalhães, while studying abroad in Fortaleza, Brazil. This was also when she was introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which has grown to be an integral part of her life, marriage, and family. Their daughter, Cherry, was born in August 2016 and, like her parents, has already developed a special passion and talent for this unique martial art.
von Steinbergs' Berkshire experience set the stage for her future. Like so many of our alumni, she is a living example of our core values of curiosity, integrity, respect, inclusion, perseverance, and resilience. The selfless and determined nature by which she lives life and pursues her passions is an inspiring example for other Bears.
Learn more about von Steinbergs in the Q & A below.
What inspired you to become a pilot and join the U.S. Navy?
I’m always in search of the next adventure and the chance to do something "more" with my life, and the Navy gives you the opportunity to see the world and push your personal limits. Flying on and off of ships in the middle of the ocean, the Navy offers one of the most dynamic, difficult, and dangerous flying environments apart from combat-mission flying. Every qualification, every phase of this career has pushed me to grow and learn more than I ever imagined.
The most rewarding part is working with the fabric of what makes America what it is. You have people from every background and upbringing imaginable. You develop a mutual respect for those who are different from you. I've gained a better understanding and love for this country through serving.
What is Brazilian jiu-jitsu and what impact has it had on you and your family?
There is no sport like Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). It tests your cardio and endurance, explosiveness, and pure strength. But the best part is that it is human chess—you begin by learning moves and combinations, you discover how to read another person's body movement to deceive or set them up, and you start thinking moves ahead.
As an adult who once enjoyed playing sports in high school and college, my life was lacking that competitive aspect. I actually met my husband in Brazil at the gym through BJJ. He has been a jiu-jitsu black belt for over 10 years. That is our bonding time. It is great to have something in common that we are both so passionate about.
In what ways is your Berkshire experience present in your life today?
My first taste of aviation and flying was through Berkshire's aviation science program with Mr. Lee. I will never forget my first solo at the Walter J. Koladza Airport. His passion for aviation was infectious. I try to go about my day with a positive attitude like his.
Additionally, my love for hiking and the outdoors started at Berkshire as well. Every weekend I would hike up to the different lakes and across the many paths. Here in Hawaii, I continue that tradition and hike every Sunday.
What are your fondest memories of your time under the Mountain?
Living so close to nature was amazing. I'll never forget the walks across campus or through the mountains. Whether those walks were through feet of snow, crunchy fall leaves, or a downpour of spring rain, it was always beautiful.
Reflecting back on my time at Berkshire, the teachers truly are amazing. All of my teachers and coaches worked so hard to provide us with the best and most unique experiences. Some of the opportunities I took advantage of were aviation science, photography, painting, Model UN, environmental sciences, global politics, and three sports (field hockey, ice hockey, and golf). You don't find opportunities like that in many other places.
If you could offer any piece of advice to today’s students, what would it be?
Be passionate and open-minded. Have passion and pursue your dreams, but be open-minded for your life to go down a different path. Not all your plans will go as expected. I am happy with where I am now, but behind each success and victory, I had many failures or doors and dreams that closed. However, I don't consider those moments and events failures. They were learning and life experiences that helped shape me.