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Lincolnview grad fulfills passion for flying in military PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 12:10 AM

BY LINDSAY MCCOY

DHI Correspondent

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VAN WERT — Van Wert County, with its local airport, has inspired many local residents to pursue a career as a pilot but Lincolnview graduate Jason Keltner has used his career and skills as a pilot to serve his country in the military.

Keltner grew up just a few minutes outside of Van Wert with his parents, Larry and Kathy Keltner. After graduating from Lincolnview High School in 1999, the young graduate went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2003 as well as his private pilot certificate in 2008.

While he had always been interested in flying, it was his service to the military that finally helped him to obtain this lifelong passion.

“I completed Aircraft Armament Systems Technical School at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2003, and in 2009, I was selected for a pilot position,” said Keltner.

It was in 2002 that Keltner joined the military and enlisted with the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard where he served for seven years as an aircraft armament systems technician and attained the rank of E-6, or technical sergeant.

“In that career field, we did everything from loading bombs and bullets to overhauling the gun system to troubleshooting and repairing the electrical system that controlled the weapons on the F-16C,” reflected Keltner. “It was a great experience that laid the cornerstone for my military career.”

When Keltner first enlisted in the military, he did not have the eyesight to become a pilot but after corrective laser surgery, was offered to became a pilot candidate. His wife pushed him to pursue his dreams. In 2009, Keltner was selected for a pilot position and attended officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., and earned his commission as a Second Lieutenant. His flight training began with initial flight screening at Doss Aviation in Pueblo, Colo., which was followed by undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla., and was completed with KC-135 initial qualification at Altus Air Force Base in Altus, Okla.

“After two weeks of flying with an instructor, we achieved our first milestone as Air Force pilots in training and began flying solo,” remarked Keltner. “Over the next four months, we would take four check-rides covering basic pattern procedures and maneuvers, advanced aerobatics, instruments and formation. In the final phase of training, we completed the same check-rides again but to a much higher level of difficulty.”

During this time, Keltner began each day around 6 a.m. and spent more than 12 hours each day in the field. This tiresome day was always completed with additional time studying for the next day’s material.

“It’s hard to describe the stress that accompanies a program where you could have to fly an airplane and/or simulator up to three times per day and at any point three failed events could remove you from pilot training entirely.”

Just over a year after starting, Keltner completed the first step of pilot training and officially earned his wings. After completing initial qualification courses, the new pilot moved to back to his home state and joined the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus.

“I am passionate about flying,” said Keltner. “I would challenge you to find a pilot that is not passionate about flying. There is something about getting airborne and seeing things from such a different point of view that draws you back time and time again. Flying is a blend of art and science that is both simple and complete and no two flights are ever the same.”

Nearly two months ago, Keltner felt the effects of a tragic refueling accident that affected part of his division. Full details of the accident have yet to be released and remains under investigation.

“The flying community is a small and tight knit one and we are affected just as one would be affected by the loss of a coworker to an accident,” noted Keltner. “The people are the biggest positive about my job. I have had the opportunity to serve with the best America has to offer. I have been consistently impressed by the dedication, professionalism and courage of the men and women I have served with all around the world.”

Keltner does not make these travels with the service alone and is joined by his wife Megan, a 2000 Crestview graduate, and their two children, Piper and Wyatt. His family has been positively affected by his job as well as the being able to make lifelong friendships with people that are now scattered all across the country.

Keltner has enjoyed having the opportunity to see so much of the world as travelling and working overseas has given him an amazing perspective on the circumstances around him. It has all been a wonderful experience for Keltner, especially the opportunity to be a part of something that benefits others.

“It is hard to single out the negatives of my job because so many times what seems like a bad situation has given me the greatest reward,” said Keltner. “Being away from home is always difficult but it is the separation that makes the homecoming such an amazing feeling.”

Keltner just recently accepted a flying positive with the 161st Air Refueling Wing with the Arizona Air National Guard and spent the 2013 Fourth of July week moving his family to their new home.

“I have had a great run with my career and I just want to keep giving it my best and see where the new opportunities take me,” said Keltner. “I am a firm believer in doing your best no matter what the circumstances because you never know what doors it will open.”

 

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