My childhood growing up in and around St. Louis, Missouri was fairly typical. I played roller hockey and softball on Rose Fanning Elementary School’s asphalt playground in South St. Louis. I was a Cub Scout but gave it up because I liked playing baseball more. I loved books and movies about military pilots and astronauts. By the time I was in high school I knew I wanted to do two things with my life; I wanted to fly in the military and I wanted to work in law enforcement. I decided to be an astronaut first. The path was simple, fighter pilot, test pilot, then astronaut. I decided I would attend the USAF Academy. Honestly, I thought naval aviators were cooler, but I didn’t like swimming. I’m proud to say that I was nominated to the academy by my congressman, Richard Gephardt. Unfortunately, of the 9,000 people nominated for the USAFA class of 1983, I was not one of the 1,600 accepted.
Plan B was to go across the river to Cahokia, Illinois to attend Parks College of St. Louis University. It was a flying school and held FAA certificate #1. I was told Charles Lindbergh was an instructor there before Ollie Parks fired him for flying one of the school’s planes under the Eads Bridge. After graduating with a degree in Aeronautics, I attend USMC Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia and then Naval Flight Training in Pensacola, Florida. After earning my gold wings, I was assigned to the Flying Tigers of HMH-361 at MCAS Tustin, California. Instead of cruising the western Pacific on a ship, we were assigned to the unit deployment program and deployed to MCAS Futenma, on Okinawa, Japan. From there we would deploy to Cubi Point NAS in the Philippines and Pohang, South Korea to train and support exercises like Cope Thunder and Team Spirit.
I returned to the St. Louis area after my active duty and worked as a Ballwin, Missouri police officer attaining the rank of sergeant. When the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11, I joined the Missouri Army National Guard and flew Black Hawk helicopters during Operation Iraqi Freedom II. While in Iraq, I applied for and accepted an intelligence officer position with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Now my wife and I live a quiet life in the country surrounded by trees.