TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
In the early afternoon hours, a game of cat and mouse is played, Jerry once again on the verge of getting the best of Tom. This time the tides have turned, Tom came out victorious. These characters however, are not the cartoon stars some may be thinking about, they are a father-son duo in the U.S. Air Force.
Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jerry, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group QF-16 aerial target pilot, passed on the Air force lineage to his son Tom, 95th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor lead pilot.
Jerry grew up in Minnesota where he graduated high school. After visiting a few Air Force bases as a student, he decided once he graduated high school he would join the Air Force.
“I went [to the Air Force Academy] a few times and was impressed with what I saw, the academic program and other development opportunities, I then made it my primary choice,” Jerry said. “I joined because I wanted an opportunity to serve the country.”
And serve his country he has. After the academy, he was put on track to be a fighter pilot. Upon completion of training, he was assigned as an F-15 Eagle pilot.
Throughout his 30 plus years of working in the Air Force, Jerry flew F-15s for over 22 years, transitioned to the QF-4 Aerial Target and now flies QF-16 Aerial Targets at the 53rd WEG.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Tom decided he wanted to join the Air Force and headed to the academy himself.
“I had an idea that I wanted to fly planes when I was younger and started to think what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Tom said. “I grew up seeing my dad fly planes and being around Air Force bases a lot. For many of the same reasons, I wanted to join the academy just like him.”
Being in the military Jerry traveled around the world with his family, going from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and finally ending up at Tyndall in 1998. There he transitioned from active duty to Air National Guard and then to a civilian in the Air Force.
“Raising Tom was good, fun, rewarding,” Jerry said. “I made it my goal to never slow him down until he was out of high school. I was excited and very happy that he chose to follow in the same footsteps that I did. It made me very proud of him, at the same time, I wanted him to succeed on his own merit. I have been watching his accomplishments with a great deal a pride and am humbled and thankful we are able to have a career serving our country and accomplishing the mission of the Air Force.”
After graduating the academy in 2013, Tom went to Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, then to Tyndall where he completed his pilot training at the only F-22 Raptor training school in the world at the 43rd Fighter Squadron.
“As a pilot you get back-to-back nonstop awesome flying, and it is the best job you can have,” Tom said.
Jerry concurred with his son, showing that no matter the level of experience, the joy found in taking part in the mission is the same.
“I would back that up,” his dad chimed in as he looked over at his son and smiled. “There are some times that are routine and more repetitive than others. But even those periods are rewarding in the sense you know you are doing something that is required for national defense. Being a pilot gives us opportunities that you don’t get anywhere else.”
Tom and Jerry, son and father, had the chance to fly their corresponding aircraft as adversaries in an F-22 and QF-16 right before Father’s Day.
To view the recount of the actual mission read Tom and Jerry’s Father’s Day special: Part II and visit www.tyndall.af.mil at a later date.