Moody lieutenant takes the initiative

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
2nd Lt. Derek Dillard grew up around aviation. As a boy, he used to watch the planes take off and land at an airport near his home in Georgia. Both of his parents worked at the airport and they took many family trips during his childhood.

Now a logistics readiness officer with the 23rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Dillard still has the same interest in flying. His hope is to get a slot for undergraduate pilot training and become a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, but it's not as easy as signing up for a slot. Competition is tough and only a few slots are open to active duty every year.

That's why Dillard has taken things into his own hands. In an effort to increase his chances, Dillard spends countless hours in classrooms, and the cockpit working to get his private pilot's license.

"It's almost a requirement to have you private pilot's license," said Dillard. "It is very difficult to get a pilot training slot on active duty without it. But even if I don't get a slot, it is still enjoyable."

However, for Lt. Col Joseph Rodriguez, 23rd LRS commander, flying is just a hobby. Rodriguez who is also working on his private pilot's license gave Dillard information about the program and the names of his instructors.

"It's just a hobby to me," said Rodriquez. "I'm not a natural and I don't have time to fly every day, but I enjoy it. I was in Civil Air Patrol when I was a child and have been around aviation since I was young.

"It's a humbling experience," he added. "It's more difficult than I thought. I knew all about how aircraft work, the rudder, ailerons and flaps, but once you get inside one you realize it's much harder to keep them in the air than you think."

Although there are challenges, Rodriguez says that Dillard shows the right attitude by taking the initiative.

"Dillard is easy going and smart," said Rodriguez. "I have heard nothing but great things about him as an officer. I think he is going to do great things in the Air Force, and I sincerely hope he gets picked up for undergraduate pilot training.

"He sees something he wants and is taking the initiative to help make it happen," he added. "That's the kind of officer you want, one that will take the initiative to make himself a better person and leader."

After three months of training, Dillard is ready for his first solo flight. He hopes to one day take to the skies as a U.S. Air Force pilot, but his interest in flying is not limited to military aviation.

"You are almost limitless up there," said Dillard. "There are so many options when flying. I love it and even if I don't get a pilot training slot I will continue to fly and maybe work my way up to a commercial license."