Desire To Help Others and Serve Country Leads to Helicopters
Growing up in a small rural agricultural town in Arkansas there wasn’t much opportunity for someone like me to become a pilot, but the dream was always there. I can remember watching crop dusters fly over thinking to myself, “Someday, somehow I will fly.”
After high school the reality of my dream coming true was hit by a brick when I discovered how costly flight training was.
Pursue Your Dreams
Once reality set in, I realized that I had to move on to another career option, that’s when I decided that I could do one of the other things that I really love, and that is help people. I decided to become a Police Officer and eventually was hired as a Patrolman for the Marked Tree, AR Police Department. I learned a lot of lessons as a police officer, but some of the most important was from my mentor and respected friend Chester Ford. Chief Ford instilled in me that no matter what always tell the truth, a man’s word is all he has, always do the right thing, and that you only live once so pursue your dreams. I loved being a police officer, however I still always looked to the skies. The blue sky is where I dreamed of and wanted to be.
Serving Country Leads to First Helicopter Flight
At 22 I chose to expand my options and help more people, I enlisted into the Arkansas Army National Guard. After a short period as a traditional Guardsman (one weekend a month) I was activated as an AGR (Active Guard Reserve) Solider, It was here that I spent the next several years on active duty for the National Guard. The National Guard gave me the chance to fly in a helicopter for the first time. During this first of many helicopter flights, I was hooked. I immediately fell in love with helicopters, the vertical flight and maneuverability of these aircraft was amazing to me. Flying in the back of National Guard Helicopters took my dream to another level, I could not think of anything more that I wanted to do other than fly, but being in the back of the aircraft wasn’t enough, I wanted to be in the cockpit flying the aircraft.
After 9 years of service in the Arkansas National Guard I left the military. It was time to fulfill my dream. Serving in the guard I earned the Post 9/11 GI Bill, however at this time I didn’t know I could utilize this benefit to pay for flight training. I spent the next several months trying to find a way to become a pilot. I searched for several ways to pay for flight training; I attempted to get several loans, borrow money from individuals and even attempted raising money. I was absolutely obsessed with finding a way to become a pilot. The answer was slapping me in the face, I had the Post 9/11 GI Bill and this benefit would cover the cost of my training.
Holding Himself To A Higher Standard
So now that I had the funding to pay for school I had to select a school. All of my research kept leading me to one school: Guidance Aviation. Guidance stood out to me in every perimeter I set while trying to select a school. Guidance’s Motto stuck in my head: “Training to a Higher Standard”. Not only do I want to be a professional Pilot, but I want to be the best pilot possible, with the best training possible. I hold myself to a higher standard. After contacting Guidance Aviation’s Student Services Department, I immediately got all of my paper work filled out, a short time later I was setting in new student orientation. This was a very surreal day for me; in the months leading up to this day I spent hours and hours watching every video Guidance made, I chatted with every student, alumni and instructor I could, finally I was here, finally I was a student, finally I was fulfilling my life long dream of flying. During my orientation I was presented with the unique and rare opportunity of doubling up Private 1 and Private 2 semester. This gave me the chance to hold myself to an even “higher standard”. Doubling up was very tough and very time consuming, but was totally worth it. After just one semester of training I became a licensed helicopter pilot, now I am studying to become an instrument rated pilot. I am literally living a dream, living my dream. Through the military and Guidance my dream has come true, I’m a pilot and I couldn’t be more pleased. I love being part of Guidance Aviation.
Elements of Success
When asked what has helped me be successful thus far in the program, my answer is simply 3 things:
- First God for allowing me this opportunity.
- Second my family, my wife April McCrary Ragan and I have been married for nearly 7 years. We have a 6 year old son, Jamie Gregg and a 2 year old daughter Adalyn Nicole. Without the support of these 3 I do not believe I could make it through the program. The support and love they have shown for me and my choices is phenomenal. When I get discouraged I FaceTime my family (they are in Arkansas, while I’m here) and all my discouragement is gone. The joy I feel when I hear my son or daughter tell someone “my daddy is a helicopter pilot” is un-describable. I truly believe the support of family is crucial to ones success.
- Third I am part of an awesome study group. Each member holds himself to a higher standard. We hold each other and our group as a whole to a higher standard. We are a tight group that refuses to accept defeat. We strive to be successful and for each member of our group to be successful. I believe being part of an active study group to be a very important part of success in this program.
– Jackie G. Ragan, Guidance Aviation Baton Rouge Student Pilot – Helicopters