by Cara Groves, Student Public Relations Writer
Becoming a pilot for the United States Air Force is a dream not many college students share, but for Thaddeus Krueger and Matthew Crum, flying past the speed of sound is one of their greatest ambitions.
And now, that dream is closer to becoming a reality.
Beavercreek, Ohio, residents Krueger, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major, and Crum, a senior majoring in finance, were recently selected to become Air Force pilots after four years of intense training and education through Cedarville University’s Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps Program (AFROTC).
AFROTC, a college-based, military officer commissioning program that focuses extensively on leadership development, problem-solving, strategic planning and professional ethics, is one of three different paths to becoming an officer in the Air Force.
For Krueger and Crum, joining AFROTC and the Air Force was a natural path in their Cedarville University education.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after high school. I had a lot of questions about my future,” said Krueger. “But growing up as a military kid with my dad in the Air Force, it was natural for me to look into AFROTC. It was a no-brainer.”
Crum — also a military kid — imagined the possibility of joining the Air Force after the coronavirus pandemic prompted him to rethink his future.
“Military service is hard to beat. There are a lot of opportunities in the Air Force to travel and serve in unique ways,” Crum said.
The Air Force provides opportunities in careers such as developmental engineering, aircraft maintenance, airfield operations and logistics. But one of the most coveted, and competitive, career paths is that of a pilot.
Unlike the other career paths in the military, to be considered for a pilot position requires a rigorous application and assessment process. After applying to become a pilot, every applicant receives a merit ranking, which is determined by the applicant’s grade point average, fitness test score, commander ranking and amount of flight hours completed.
According to Helen Krasner of Executive Flyers, 42% of pilots are trained through AFROTC, which has a 25% acceptance rate.
Once the merit scores are calculated and finalized, the individuals with the highest scores are selected to become pilots in the United States Air Force.
For Krueger, the dream of becoming a pilot traces back to his childhood.
“I remember looking up and seeing airplanes as a kid. One of the first sentences I ever said was, ‘Someday, I want to fly in a big airplane,’” Krueger said. “I like understanding what makes things fly and the idea of being up in the clouds. There are so many things that go into being a pilot. It’s a cool challenge.”
Now, after years of dedication and hard work, Krueger and Crum’s tenacity have paid off, as both students were among some of those chosen to become Air Force pilots.
“This was something that Thaddeus and I fought hard for and it’s amazing we have this opportunity,” Crum said. “There’s still a lot of challenges coming, but it’s encouraging to know that it’s in God’s hands and that we made it to this step.”
Moving forward, Krueger and Crum will finish their respective college programs before moving on to specialized training with the Air Force.
“Now that I’m getting closer to the end, it’s all starting to become more of a reality,” Krueger said. “I’m thankful because it’s all definitely paid off.”