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Airman swaps stripes for wings

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Second Lt. Jerry Bennett, a former enlisted weather forecasting instructor here, has returned to the base for C-21 flight training with the 45th Airlift Squadron.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Second Lt. Jerry Bennett, a former enlisted weather forecasting instructor here, has returned to the base for C-21 flight training with the 45th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- Less than two years ago, Staff Sgt. Jerry Bennett raised his eyes to the sky as a weather forecasting instructor. Today, he takes to the sky as an Air Force pilot.

On Aug. 8, the second lieutenant will complete three weeks of C-21 training with the 45th Airlift Squadron, just blocks away from the weather training facility here where he taught from March 2000 to October 2001.

"When Jerry first approached us in the schoolhouse as a 28-year-old staff sergeant weather instructor and stated that what he really wanted to do was fly, I'll admit there was a little skepticism that the Air Force would support him at that stage in his career," said Maj. Thomas Lyga, 335th Training Squadron commander.

"However, he had a dream, he was determined, and by the way, he turned out to be very good at that pilot thing," Lyga added. "He's a true Air Force success story, and I couldn't be more proud of him."

"Over the years, I briefed a lot of pilots, and before long, I aspired to be one, too," said Bennett, a 12-year Air Force member. "My weather training definitely has been beneficial in preparation for this career move."

While teaching here, Bennett was selected for the Bootstrap program and given time to complete a bachelor's degree in geography at the University of Nebraska. After graduating in August 2001, he was selected for Officer Training School.

Next, he headed to Florida for six months of joint undergraduate pilot training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where only one other prior-enlisted member was in his class. After graduation, he headed to Vance Air Force Base, Okla., for advanced training on T-1 tanker/cargo planes.

"I had some great opportunities and some wonderful commanders who guided me along the way," said Bennett, who will move on to a new assignment as a C-21 pilot at Peterson AFB, Colo. (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)

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