LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Most simulator instructors at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training bases are civilians with extensive experience in the field of aviation.
Senior Airman Brenten Boler graduated Pilot Training Next on August 31, 2019--the only one in his class who was not assigned an airframe. He was assigned to be a T-6A Texan II simulator instructor at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
From technical training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he was learning Korean, he went on a temporary duty to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, for testing and interviews to see if he was a good fit for the aviation careerfield. From there, he went to Initial Flight Training at Pueblo, Colorado and was officially accepted to Pilot Training Next.
Receiving the news he was officially accepted to PTN, Boler set off on yet another temporary duty--this time, to Austin, Texas, where he began PTN with the 21st Detachment.
“I always wanted to get into aviation; I was interested in it as a child and in college before joining the Air Force,” Boler said. “I thought it would take me a lot longer to do anything related to aviation, so I was excited for the opportunity. As I began my training, I was excited to learn and thought that everything felt surreal.”
Unlike bases where the traditional SUPT is taught, he found it to be more individual-focused than syllabus-driven and allows students to progress at a faster pace than traditional SUPT.
He finished training at the 24th Detachment at Randolph AFB. He was awarded his wings, yet they remain in a glass case inscribed, “BREAK GLASS UPON OTS GRADUATION.”
In order to commission along with the two other enlisted members who completed PTN with him, Boler would have to complete his bachelor's degree to be approved for Officer Training School.
Boler’s next step was clear. While he waited for his orders to be activated, he began classes again, pursuing interdisciplinary studies. Having credits from previous college courses, he found himself well on his way to reaching his next graduation goal. He PCS’d to Laughlin in June, 2020, and he’s currently a T-6 simulator instructor for the 47th Operations Group.
Even though Boler is not yet able to pursue his career in flight, he gives his full energy to his job and students at Laughlin.
“I value the job I have now because it gives me the opportunity to pass on the knowledge I have as a military aviator, as well as a chance to improve my understanding of concepts by teaching them to curious students,” Boler said. “I find the work as an instructor to be incredibly rewarding and enjoy working with the student pilots to help them develop their skills.”
His teammate and mentor, Bryan Nalley, 47th Operations Group T-6 civilian simulator instructor, thinks it’s awesome to have an active duty enlisted person on the team.
“I really enjoy watching Senior Airman Boler excel at being an instructor pilot” Nalley said. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been doing this for a long time. I’m really looking forward to seeing where his flying career takes him. So far he’s off to a very impressive start.”
Boler is technically qualified to fly, but he needs his bachelor’s degree to be an Air Force officer. He is happy he needs it to fly because it drives him to earn his degree.
“Boler is a fully qualified Air Force instructor pilot after graduating from Pilot Training Next and Pilot Instructor Training,” Nalley said. “I’ve never flown with him, but in the simulator he has already proven himself as an outstanding instructor in his very short time here. It’s unfortunate he can’t wear wings on his chest right now because he’s definitely earned them.”
Boler believes making flight available to the enlisted force is a key factor in helping solve many problems for the Air Force.
“Allowing enlisted personnel to have the opportunity to learn how to fly and giving them a path similar to the one that I took could help build the pilot core of the Air Force,” Boler said.
Bringing enlisted personnel into aviation following a similar path to the one that Boler took can open the door to allowing more qualified Airmen who are with Air Force ranks to learn to fly. For others, a path like Boler’s could be another avenue to increase pilot production, while also gaining more simulator instructors to assist in SUPT training and giving enlisted personnel the opportunity to transition into the cockpit.