ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Having the chance to make a living doing something you love is a dream for most people.
But Hillsboro resident Brady Marsh’s love for flying has led him into a career in the U.S. Air Force with the hope of flying one of the world’s best fighter jets.
“The training and the opportunity they give us and the chance to travel and be a leader in the world’s best air force is awesome,” Marsh said. “I feel very privileged to have been accepted.”
Marsh, a graduate of Nebraska Christian High School and Sterling College, has lived in Hillsboro just over two years after moving here to join his parents, David and Cheri Marsh.
While in Hillsboro, Marsh was an assistant coach for Tabor College baseball team and was a Marsh Brothers Painting partner.
Marsh earned his private pilot’s license in 2002 and has logged nearly 200 flying hours.
Marsh comes from a flying family. His dad and brothers Tyler and Caleb all have private pilot’s licenses.
Marsh said the thrill of flying comes from a love of being above the ground and the freedom and the sheer speed of flight.
Coming out of college, Marsh had two true passions-athletics and flying.
“I mulled it over and thought I needed to search out what I could do to get into the flying world, so I checked out the Air Force.”
After starting the long application process, the 9/11 attacks occurred.
“That cemented it,” he said of his decision to join the military. “I’m 27 and I need to do something while I’m useful to my country, and this is a worthwhile thing to do.”
A year and a half after starting the application process, Marsh received word that he was accepted.
“I was accepted in November, but I didn’t go to OTS (officer training school) until July,” he said. “All pilots have to be officers, and to be commissioned you have to go through this school.
“Once I earn my wings, I’ll incur a 10-year commitment to the Air Force.”
Marsh said officers must serve four years, navigators serve six years, but pilots are in a different category.
“I’ve heard the amount of money the government spends on pilot training is somewhere between $600,000 and $1.3 million, so they want us to stay in for a little longer to get their money’s worth,” he said.
Marsh completed the necessary training in Maxwell, Ala., in September and is a second lieutenant. He headed for Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. Oct. 15 for the next step in his training.
“I’ll be at Laughlin for about a year going through UPT (undergraduate pilot training),” Marsh said. “I’ll get my wings and learn how to fly the Air Force way.”
The first six weeks will be spent determining the physical capabilities of each candidate.
“They’ll put us through the physiological mode,” he said.
After completing that stage, Marsh will begin flight instruction in a T-6 supercharged turbo-prop.
“The true air speed of the Cessna 172, which I learned to fly, is about 110 knots (115 mph),” Marsh said. “The T-6 will cruise at about 362 knots (more than 400 mph.
“The flight characteristics will be similar, but things will be happening so much quicker-it’ll be night and day apart from what I know.”
In Phase 2 of his training, Marsh said the plans for each individual pilot will become more clear.
“They’ll send us in the direction they want us to go,” he said. “I’ll either be assigned to a T-38, which I hope I get, or to a T-1, which is kind of the business-jet route.”
Marsh said each pilot begins flight training on equal footing.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have zero flight hours or 2,000 hours coming in, everybody starts at square one,” he said. “There are guys who come in from regional airlines with thousands of hours, but they’ll start with the rest of us and be spoon fed just like everyone else.
“There are specific ways the Air Force wants things done and we’ll learn to fly that way.”
How a pilot performs in the T-6, as well as physical qualifications, determine whether a pilot will be recommended for a tactical aircraft like a fighter.
“I think you get to pick what you wish to do, but the Air Force has the final say in determining just what that will be,” he said.
“If I had a choice, I’d love to fly a tactical plane-an F-15, F-16 or an A-10. I don’t know what my chances are but I know it’s a very competitive environment.”
The thought of piloting an aircraft costing millions of dollars is sobering, according to Marsh.
“To think the government sees something in us to think we’re responsible enough to be able to handle that is amazing,” he said. “I just have to do my best to learn and train so I don’t let anybody down.
“They’ll teach us the right way to fly and the professional way to fly,” he added. “This is the best training in the world and I’m fortunate just to be chosen.”
Marsh said the 10-year commitment is both a relief and a challenge in his personal life.
“I have to put my entire heart and soul into this because this is what I’m going to be doing,” he said. “I came to grips this will be my career.”
Marsh said his feeling of pride and responsibility escalated upon his arrival at OTS.
“They impressed upon us through the whole process that we’re the guys the Air Force wants to represent them and what our country needs for future leaders,” he said.
“To think they trust us, and to see so many people in positions of leadership in our country that started right where I am today, is humbling.”
What the future holds and where it takes him after Laughlin is uncertain.
“My destination will be determined by what type of aircraft I’m assigned to, so that’s still up in the air, so to speak,” he said. “I’ll have 30 days of leave each year, so I’ll be around Hillsboro occasionally-but not that much.
“Maybe someday I’ll be able to do a flyover over Hillsboro,” he said. “That would be really cool.”