An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Combat Art Articles

2nd Lt. Katie "Kat" Justen

  • Published

Justen bio pic
Heritage and Combat Artist

2nd Lt. Katie “Kat” L. Justen is an artist for the Heritage and Combat Art Division for Air Force Reserve Command’s Office of History and Heritage, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.  In this position, she visually documents Reserve Citizen Airmen stories and culture in Total Force, joint and coalition operations around the world through artwork and publications.  Her efforts preserve the rich history of the Air Force Reserve and inform and inspire current and future generations.  

Justen also serves as the officer in charge of public affairs for the 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.  In this position, she works closely with senior leaders and various agencies to tell the Air Force Reserve story via the creation of imaginative graphics, photos, videos and articles.

After graduating with high honors from Air Force Basic Military Training she went on to serve four years active duty with the 11th Wing Public Affairs office, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. In this position she served as the lead editor of the Capital Flyer newspaper, launched and managed the installation’s first social media program, and designed the Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility logo, which led to in-person recognition from the President of the United States.

Justen developed her artistic abilities through formal training through the bachelor of fine art degree program at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland.  She resonated with the representational style and tradition of the old masters, feeling they were magicians of natural depiction, fooling the eye into thinking something was real with the stroke of a brush.  She found oil paint was the best medium to achieve this naturalism due to its ability to be applied in translucent layers. 

For Justen, creating art for the Air Force Reserve Office of History and Heritage combines two loves, the Air Force and fine art, into a unique opportunity to visually document her brothers and sisters in arms while simultaneously educating and inspiring audiences and contributing to the visual repository of the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve.

In 2017, the Air Force Reserve Office of History and Heritage asked her to create artwork to document Reserve Citizen Airmen stories including Airmen performing KC-135 engine maintenance, a portrait bust of fallen Reserve Citizen Airmen, Maj. LeRoy Homer Jr., 9-11 United Airlines Flight 93 pilot, along with portrait busts of other fallen Airmen and paintings of Reserve Citizen Airmen stories.  

In addition to visually documenting and narrating Reserve Citizen Airmen stories, in her personal work, she deeply favors the individual, highlighting emotion, narrative and the existential experience.

Justen received the Thomas Sangiamo Scholarship for excellence in drawing while a student at MICA, was the 2016 Air Force and Air Force Reserve civilian graphic artist of the year and was the 2021 Air Force Reserve Media contest winner for the Digital Art category.  Her military work has exhibited at the U.S. Air Force Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins, Georgia, the Pentagon and is also included in the U.S. Air Force Art Collection.

“Heritage and combat art has an immediate and palpable effect on those who experience it,” said Justen. “Whether part of the mission depicted, alumni, family member, friend or fan there is a feeling of excitement and camaraderie in collectively viewing the heroism of our Citizen Airmen through artistic medium. Works of art relating to specific units has a direct and positive impact on each individual Airman associated with the mission, enhancing esprit des corps. Cumulatively, the entire collection establishes a history and heritage which all past, present and future Reserve members and their mission partners can step into, serving as a source of purpose and pride.”