What year did you work in the Crookston Times newsroom?
Gosh, I mean it was summer 2009, right before I went to college; I changed my chosen specialty from civil engineering to journalism accordingly. It feels like an eternity.
What was your favorite part of your Times experience?
The best part of this job was interacting with people. Whether I was in the newsroom or in town, someone had a story to tell in our small town. The challenge was to get people to open up a bit more and make my job of printing easier. This is the perspective that I carried with me.
What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself and / or the biggest life lesson you took with you when you left The Times?
That’s a great question, and I’ll apologize at the outset if my answer is a bit abstract. I learned that any situation is what you make of it. I could do my homework on a topic before hopping in my Pontiac to interview someone, and a few hours later I could have a great product; Otherwise, if all I did was hit the time card twice a day and hammer a keyboard in between without much more thought, I’d have a trash-in-trash scenario.
On the other side of pen and paper, it was the same for the people I would interact with. Some people were going about their day quietly, which is more than good, and yet you might find people in our part of the country who go out of their way to make a splash. I had found a lot of go-getters when I wrote to Fargo during my college days.
What have you been doing since? Give us an update on where you stand, what you’re doing, who you’re with, etc.
I’m glad someone is forcing me to explain what I’ve done; sometimes I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.
After leaving the Times, I loaded up my Grand Am and went to the big city of Fargo, where I studied journalism at NDSU and entered the Air Force ROTC program. Two weeks after I finished my undergrad and got my commission, I entered active duty and went to Texas to begin my current career. I graduated as a pilot and got my wings on November 7, 2014, and it’s still the achievement I’m most proud of.
I then flew the B-52H, spending a little over a year in Shreveport, LA racing and finishing before the course start date, then learned to fly this absolute monster from a plane. I spent a little over two years in Minot, ND, operationally piloting the mighty BUFF (the colloquial name for this beautiful old jet – look for the acronym when the kids are away). During that time, I deployed to the Middle East and spent seven months doing my part there.
Then at the end of September 2018 I packed that little red car again and drove to Texas, this time to learn how to teach young officers like I once was to fly. I’ve lived in Del Rio, Texas for almost two years now, and just down the street in Laughlin AFB, I’m an instructor pilot in the T-38C. It is the Air Force’s aircraft of choice for producing new fighter and bomber pilots.
I have a little over a year left at this current job and another assignment to my service contract. I’ve been spending time lately trying to figure out what my next move would be. So far I’ve always been told where to go and when. Not knowing my immediate future is strange new territory for me.
Oh, and I finally bought a new car two years ago.
You went on to study journalism at North Dakota State University, but your life and career really “took off” afterwards. Are you addicted to adrenaline? Have you always wanted to be of service and fly?
I wouldn’t say I’m a drug addict; I like to spend an entire Saturday playing Nintendo 64 like anyone else. But it is also true that I can no longer jetski on the lake.
Joining the Air Force was a very impulsive thing that I decided in my last year of high school. I always thought flying was fascinating and thought it was something I could only do when I was young. I also strongly believe that serving your nation in some capacity is a noble thing to do, and I felt capable of doing this work. So all the pieces kind of fell into place.
Although I have had my fair share of bad days, I continue to move forward with a sense of gratitude. I get paid to fly, I do a lot of it, I can see the blue sky every day that I am in flight, and now I do it in an airplane with two afterburners. Many people dream of becoming a pilot in the world’s largest air force, and I am one every day of the week; that would be a hell of a thing i would complain about. Even with all the bad days, I will never regret this choice as long as I live.
What excites you these days?
I have never been the number one person in anything; with that in mind, i think i do my best when i convince students who are in a difficult situation that there is nothing wrong with being imperfect. Our flight environment is constantly focused on being the best and pointing out people’s shortcomings – that’s just the nature of the business. This can take a toll on a person over time, and sometimes students wonder if they deserve to be here. I suggest that the seat at the table is currently occupied by the guy or the girl I’m talking to, so this decision has been made a long time ago. The Lord knows I made all the mistakes in the book, and they still let me show up for work.
If I can get the students to stop playing mind games on themselves before getting on the jet, they tend to perform better in the air.
Tell us how the pandemic has affected you / continues to affect you …
I had the same experiences as everyone with canceled plans and the like. But the pilot pipeline had to keep flowing because of its critical role in the production of Air Force pilots. So, we masked ourselves like everyone else to carry out the mission. All things considered, I still have to work with great people and cash a paycheck twice a month. As such, I have been very lucky throughout this ordeal.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try to turn my brain off on the weekends. I’m very comfortable spending time on my own, so I have no problem finding a way to recharge when needed via video games, music, or even the occasional book. But I’m going to give it all up to spend time with coworkers outside of work, whether it’s outdoors or just in a backyard. I do my best during these times to avoid talking in store and instead build a meaningful relationship with the friends with whom I sweat from Monday to Friday.
Look in the crystal ball of your life: where do you think / hope you will be in 10 years, and what do you think / hope to do?
Hope to be home or somewhere nearby. I took a lot of good people and things for granted when I left home all those years ago, and we’re all getting older and drifting away from day to day. I said above that I didn’t regret signing up for this crazy ride, but I would like to be less of a stranger to the children of my brothers and sisters.
I have tried to find contacts who spray the crops, as that seems like a fantastic use of an airplane as equipment instead of transport. It also appears to be more complex and intense flight operations than anything I’ve been a part of – no kidding. Flying for me is easy because I receive my marching orders and jump on a plane ready to go thanks to our maintainers. Powder owner-operators across the country are doing it all on their own and making it look easy – it’s absolutely amazing!