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How one Airman went from enlisted to pilot

1st Lt. Dan Stein, left, and Capt. Brandon Gould

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Originally enlisted as an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief in the Air National Guard, Senior Airman Dan Stein decided he wanted to go active duty. With this goal in mind, he began ROTC in college while still a member of the Guard. Stein, now a C-17 Globemaster III first pilot - the Air Force equivalent of a copilot - in the 21st Airlift Squadron, attributes his success to hard work and a never-say-quit attitude.

"I've been told 'no' a few times," Stein, now a first lieutenant, said. "But I just did the research myself, found the answers and made it work anyway."

Eventually, Stein achieved his goal of joining the active-duty Air Force as a pilot. There is more than one way to become an Air Force pilot.

For Capt. Brandon Gould, 22nd AS C-17 pilot, the road to becoming a pilot began in his childhood. Gould was raised by parents who were Air Force pilots, and had a sense of pride in what his parents did. Even so, Gould said he did not decide to be a pilot right away.

As a football player, he chose to seek his higher education at the Air Force Academy.

After attending classes and playing football, Gould chose to follow in his parents' footsteps to become a pilot.

"I was at the Academy for about three years when I realized I was going to be in the active duty Air Force soon," he said. "So I figured it was time to make a career decision."
While Gould went straight from college to pilot, the path was a not as direct for Stein.

As a maintainer in his previous job, Stein said he now sees the way the different pieces of the Air Force work together to accomplish the mission.

"As a pilot, I can now understand a little better why certain requests were made of me when I was a maintainer," he said.

Even as a senior airman, Stein had a head start on becoming a pilot.

"I got my civilian pilot's license and began flying when I was 17 years old and still in high school," he said.

Throughout the past 10 months, Stein has logged more than 600 hours and has a deployment to Kuwait under his belt.

One of the benefits of being a pilot is being able to see the mission on a grand scale, Gould said. The moments that stand out the most are the humanitarian missions.

"When the Tsunami hit in Japan, my plane transported equipment from Japan to Guam so Marines and Sailors could safely continue their mission," he said. "Those are the kinds of missions you hope to be a part of."

Over the last four years, Gould has logged about 1,500 hours and deployed to both Turkey and Kuwait.

Stein and Gould took different paths to get to the same destination - to become an Air Force pilot. Whether you are a high school student considering which college to attend or an active-duty Airman considering becoming a pilot, their stories serve as proof that with hard work and dedication, your goals are attainable.

"If it's something you want to do to be able to make a difference, it's a great way to go," Gould said.

"Don't let anyone tell you 'no,' " Stein said. "Find out what it takes and make it happen."

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