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Army Veteran Takes Flight Through Grandfather’s Guidance

U.S. Army Veteran Zach Talraas Honors the Words of His Grandfather and Gets More Out Of Life Than He Had Ever Dreamed

zach talraas helicopter pilot
Zach Talraas, celebrating his Commercial Pilot Checkride at Guidance Aviation.

Zach Talraas is a U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Veteran that never thought he would end up in the streets of Baghdad, Iraq fighting along side his teammates. He never thought about getting wounded. He never thought about receiving the Purple Heart. He definitely never thought about going to college. And, he never thought about becoming a commercial helicopter pilot.

Talraas, currently a helicopter flight student at Yavapai College of Prescott, Arizona, now thinks about becoming a professional helicopter pilot in the mountains of Colorado. Whenever he hits a roadblock, Talraas thinks of his Grandfather and best friend, Robert G. Short.  “His words of encouragement and guidance have helped me to overcome adversity and to stay on track. He would say things to me like, ‘Your word is your bond’ and ‘Always take care of your responsibilities’. He taught me what it meant to be a man,” said Talraas.

Top Bug From The Big Screen

A typical kid growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, Talraas caught the aviation bug from the big screen. “Sounds corny, but I saw Top Gun in 1986 and all I wanted to do was fly jets, but I didn’t think I was going to college so I thought is was all just a dream,” said Zach. [Video Courtesy of Paramount Pictures YouTube Channel]

All Dreams Have A Price

purple heartThe words and lessons bestowed upon Talraas by his grandfather continued to shape his life and help Talraas achieve the goal of being a part of the world’s greatest fighting team, the U.S. Army. But all dreams come with a price and again, the words of Zach’s Grandfather would be tapped for strength. While in the Infantry, Zach and his team would be tasked to push into Baghdad. During their push into the capitol they would take on a lot of resistance. On one dreadful day Zach would suffer two gunshot wounds to his left leg. His wounds would take Zach out of Baghdad but not out of the fight.  Talraas recovered from his wounds and finished his duty in the prestigious U.S. Army Honor Guard. Soon after, the U.S. Army would award Talraas with a well-deserved Purple Heart for his bravery in Iraq.

Another Big Screen Bug Hits Talraas

Fast forward to an evening when the 29 year old U.S. Army Veteran is watching “The Art of Flight” ( A back-country snowboarding documentary) and he notices the unbelievable actions of the helicopter and its pilot. Talraas, having always been into snowboarding and aviation, can only think about becoming a helicopter pilot in a high altitude, freezing back-country environment.

See What Inspired Zach: “Art of Flight”

[Trailer Courtesy of Red Bull YouTube Channel]

Training Videos, High Altitude, Veterans Helping Veterans

Zach will soon get on the computer and search for two things: “helicopter pilot school” and “G.I. Bill”. Guidance Aviation is the school that stands out.  Zach says with enthusiasm, “Guidance had awesome videos, a veteran friendly program, and they flew at high altitude which is what I wanted to do! My final decision was Guidance Aviation because of their safety record, mountain flying environment, and a school with other veterans.”

Becoming a professional helicopter pilot is very challenging yet very rewarding and when asked what the most challenging part of his training was he answered, “The instrument rating! Outside of school I’d say missing the birth of my nephew Jax Talraas.”

Zach’s mission as a professional pilot is to become a SAR (search and rescue) pilot in Colorado. He would like to live and work in a place that combines the work he loves and his favorite past time.

“I already have so many great experiences here, like my cross country trip to St. George, Utah with my flight instructor, John Cary, who recently landed a job flying with Sundance Helicopters,” stated Talraas.  “There are so many things I want to do, but for now I am staying focused on acquiring my CFI and CFI-I certifications. Best advice I can give anyone is “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Videos and Experiences That Inspired Zach

Check out Guidance Aviation TV and the videos that inspired Zach. Here’s one of the latest below:

About Guidance Aviation

Guidance Aviation is an FAA approved part 141 helicopter flight training organization with schools in Prescott, Arizona and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At each location, Guidance Aviation has a collegiate partner through which students may acquire their Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, Aviation Technology – Helicopters. Graduates earn both their AAS degree as well as the necessary FAA ratings and certificates to become professional helicopter pilots and teach others how to fly. Contact Guidance Aviation.


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