Left to right: Christopher Marcario, Brandon Wingfield, Matthew Bierwagen, Shelton Stephens, Nathan Agner, Brian Simpson, and Jake Wilcox. (Texas A&M University College of Engineering)
By Jan McHarg, Texas A&M University College of Engineering
Ask many aerospace engineering students what their lifelong dreams are, and one common answer is to fly. For nine undergraduate students in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, that dream will come true in the United States Air Force.
These students are members of Air Force ROTC Detachment 805 at Texas A&M University, and were selected for rated (flying related) positions for the Air Force. Brandon Wingfield was selected for a position for remotely piloted aircraft and Richard Hobson, Nathan Agner, Matthew Bierwagen, Chris Marcario, Shelton Stephens, Jake Wilcox, Brian Simpson and Michael Brockey were selected for manned aircraft and Undergraduate Pilot Training.
Joining the Air Force was a dream of Bierwagen’s since eighth grade. Guided by his mother to pick a major that complimented what he loved, he was immediately drawn to aerospace engineering.
“For me, getting the pilot slot acts as a culmination of all my work since middle school,” Bierwagen said. “All of the studying throughout high school so that I could obtain a contract with the Air Force and get in to Texas A&M. Then to push my way through engineering to be competitive on a national scale. This selection marks the end of eight years of work since committing myself to this dream, but it also marks the start of another decade serving in the Armed Forces. I could not be more excited to have this opportunity to be paid to do something I’d happily do for free.”
“We are all truly honored and blessed to have this opportunity to serve our country in the capacity,” Stephens said. “Getting to strap into the seat of such an awesome piece of aerospace technology really puts all of those late nights spent studying for the various aerospace classes into perspective.”
The aerospace students were nine of 35 Detachment 805 cadets selected by the U.S. Air Force Rated Board based on rankings by both peers and AFROTC instructors, standardized test scores, GPA, physical fitness scores and performance at AFROTC field training.
“I have wanted to become a pilot for the Air Force since I was 5 years old,” Agner said. “I have always enjoyed the thought of flight and building things for the betterment of the aviation industry, which is why I chose to become an aerospace engineer. Receiving this pilot slot has been the culmination of 16.5 years of work for me, and it’s only just the beginning. Later in my pilot career, I hope to apply for USAF Test Pilot School.
“I would say it feels really good putting in three years of hard work and coming out with an amazing career,” Wingfield said.
When the students graduate in 2019, they will commission as second lieutenants in the Air Force and go to initial training for their career fields at various pilot training bases. They will go through a year of training before being assigned to a specific airframe.
“This is a great opportunity to serve my country and do what I love at the same time,” Marcario said. “Currently, I am half way through (getting) my private pilot license, and it’s just awesome to think that I can fly multiple times a week while being a part of something special. I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut.
“Originally, I wanted to be a developmental engineer in the Air Force, but after coming to Texas A&M, opportunities presented themselves which made flying both inspiring and realistic. Having a tech degree opens a lot more scholarship opportunities in the Air Force, and during my sophomore year in college, I had the privilege of being awarded scholarships from Air Force ROTC and the Society of American Military Engineers (San Antonio post). This degree also allows me to have different career options once I am a pilot; a test pilot is an example, which requires a tech background.”
The Air Force ROTC is a four-year training program that prepares college students to become officers in the Air Force. Detachment 805 is one of the nation’s oldest AFROTC programs, established in the early 1920s, and with over 700 Air Force cadets, it is the largest unit in the nation. In the past 50 years, Texas A&M has produced more officers for the Air Force than any other university.
This story by Jan McHarg originally appeared on the TEES website.