Learning to Fly

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Missy Sterling
  • 442nd Fighter Wing
Upon graduating high school, people typically have to make big decisions that shape who they are and what they want to be.

Two 442nd Fighter Wing Airmen- Tech. Sgt. Paul Ames and Rafael Edwin- each made a different decision after high school. But they now share a common goal: to become a pilot for the United States Air Force.

“I enlisted in the Air Force Reserve when I was 17 during my senior year of high school and graduated in May of 2012,” recounted Ames, who is now a 442nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance technician. “By June, I was down at Lackland Air Force Base where I also had the opportunity of celebrating my 18th birthday.”

On the other hand, after graduating from high school in 2015, Edwin chose to enroll at Kansas State University. Edwin, a personnel recruit with the 442nd FW, is majoring in professional piloting and working on his private pilot’s license.

“The process is very demanding, so you have to set aside time to study the material presented to you,” Edwin said about pilot training. “The actual flying part can come naturally to anyone, but it's about the book material that sets apart a person who flies from a person who's a pilot.”

The idea of becoming a pilot popped into Edwin’s head during a flight home from Washington, D.C., when he realized that he could make a career of traveling the world. Whereas, Ames’s love for aviation began when he was a kid, but went away until he began working at Whiteman.

“I was reminded of what complex and captivating machines airplanes are,” said Ames, recalling how he felt when he first arrived here. “I was also amazed by the pilots who had the privilege of flying these aircraft. After my seasoning training at Whiteman, I had my heart set on flying.”

The admiration Ames had for the pilots encouraged him to start the process of becoming a pilot himself.

“I started my formal flight training at the University of Central Missouri in January of 2015,” Ames said. “The feeling of being behind the flight controls was far greater than I could have ever imagined and further enforced my decision to pursue a professional pilot career.”

Ames is continuing his education to become a pilot at the same time as Edwin, a student pilot, is training to become an Airman.

“I decided to join the Air Force because of the great benefits that are offered to all Airmen,” Edwin said. “I also strongly believe that if I have the privilege to become a pilot in the Air Force, the training bestowed upon me will set me apart from any other pilots because of how well I will be prepared to handle any situation.”

He also said he plans on finishing his bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology, in order to have a back-up plan if he’s unable to become a pilot. If he does not become a pilot for the Air Force, he still looks forward to becoming an Airman.

“I'm feeling excited to go experience a new lifestyle to enhance my point of view on being responsible and approaching situations better than I could have ever before,” said Edwin about Basic Military Training. “I feel confident and ready to further my knowledge on the Air Force and learn lifelong information that could help better someone's life around me.”

Edwin is currently at BMT and plans to complete his private pilot’s license and bachelor’s degree, while Ames is working on the next step in his career, which is completing his commercial pilot’s license and obtaining his bachelor’s degree in professional piloting.

“My main focus is on completing my bachelor’s degree, so I can pursue my career as a professional pilot,” Ames said. “Through the many ups and downs in flight training, I have developed and now carry the mindset to continually strive toward improvement, no matter how poorly or perfect a flight was executed.”

Despite the differing paths that these two aspiring pilots chose, they will work together towards the same mission as Airmen of the 442nd Fighter Wing.