Title: F-16 Instructor Pilot and 56th Fighter Wing Chief of Training
Years of service: Nine years.
First assignment: Nellis AFB, NV.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of Southern California, 2001; completed undergraduate pilot training, 2003.
Typical day: Fly and train students to fly the F-16 as well as manage training requirements and courses for all pilots with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB. On a typical day, it’s an early wake-up: I take part in preflight brief followed by preflight check of the aircraft; take off for a training flight and debrief the mission afterwards. Then it’s back to the office to take care of administrative tasks, followed by an evening workout, then off to do homework for my master’s degree and spend time with family.
Your inspiration: I thought the movie “Top Gun” was cool and always loved flying … I got lucky and did ROTC to see what the military was all about and realized flying jets would be a possibility. I wasn’t sure I wanted to take a chance and do something that was completely foreign to me, but my college girlfriend encouraged me to pursue my dream or possibly regret it for the rest of my life. It was the best advice I ever received.
Proudest moment: Graduating from undergraduate pilot training, because it was the hardest thing I have ever done and it was the most accomplished I have felt in my life.
Inherent dangers you face: We fly a jet with only one engine capable of flying at 50,000 feet, going more than 900 miles per hour, firing air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface munitions and a Gatling gun, all of which can be dangerous. We also fly with brand-new students in the backseat of our two-seat trainer F-16, which is wild. Instructing a student to do the basics such as takeoff, land and tactically employ the jet is challenging and at times slightly dangerous.
Who is your hero? My father is my hero. He lost both of his parents as a teenager; he is the oldest male of nine children and helped raise his six younger siblings; he is an immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, and has accomplished so much professionally and personally. I want to be like my father.
What do you like most about your line of work? Being a fighter pilot and flying fighter jets is the best job in the world. More importantly, I help train our future fighter pilots for combat and real-world situations.
How do you “decompress” from your job? I work out.
Advice to others: Do something you love and you will never have to work, and do not let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Always aim for perfection, because if you fall short, it will still be good.