From Airman to Selection to Colonel: A prior A-10 Crew Chief turned A-10 Pilot

  • Published
  • By Maj. Shelley Ecklebe
  • 442d Fighter Wing

Enlisting in the Air Force Reserve nearly 25 years ago, Lt. Col. Brian “B-Lite” Leiter, reached a new height last month: selection to serve in the grade of Colonel; a dream of his since he enlisted in 1996.  

Leiter, a career reservist, got married and followed his wife, Trena, an active medical technician at the time, to Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

“I loved being a crew chief” said Leiter, “launching the A-10 and saluting the pilot before his or her sortie was so rewarding. I grew up in a small town in Washington State not knowing much about the Air Force. I knew I wanted to join to serve my country and eventually fly and being a reservist would provide me the flexibility to pursue my education goals while still being in the Air Force.”

Leiter, therefore, enrolled in the University of Central Missouri’s aviation program and began to pursue his goal of learning to fly.

“Seek out opportunities and mentors early. The Reserves has so many programs based on your goals professionally or personally” said Leiter. “Don’t be afraid to tell your supervisors where you want to be in five years.”

Fast forward to 2021, Leiter is now an A-10 and Fed-Ex pilot living in Washington State with his wife and their five children. Trena, also a 442d Fighter Wing alum, recently retired from the Air Force and has a similar story to her husband – an active duty dental technician turned reservist dentist. 

Their story is one of mutual support and drive. Leiter acknowledges that life was busy for them for a while, and they alternated work with their secondary education to provide an optimal balance for their marriage and children. 

With his fini-flight in the A-10 fast approaching, Leiter said he will miss the 303rd Fighter Squadron and encourages others with similar dreams to pursue them with tenacity.

“The 442d Fighter Wing has a lot of Airmen, myself included, that call Missouri home,” Leiter said. “We take care of one another. I couldn’t get to where I am today without the supervisors I had in the 442d Maintenance Group and the pilots in the 303rd Fighter Squadron who helped me while I was a young Airman.

“The 303rd Fighter Squadron loves to hire from within. No one, however, is a bigger advocate for you than yourself. No one wants your dreams more than you do. Put in the work, seek out good mentors and aggressively chase your goals.”

After 25 years in the 442d Fighter Wing, Leiter will be taking a new job as the Individual Mobilization Assistant/Chief of Combat Operations for the 613th Air Operations Center at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.