Some in the business aviation industry leave behind their families and jobs to serve in active war zones. In the continuing AIN series intended to recognize those in our community who defend the way of life we enjoy back home, senior editor David A. Lombardo spoke with DuPont Aviation standardization pilot Jason Strickland about his recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is Stricklandπs story. If you or someone you know in business aviation is in harmπs way on our behalf, weπd like to hear from you.
Jason Strickland, Major
Delaware Air National Guard
C-130 Aircraft Commander
Standardization pilot Challenger 300 and Gulfstream IV-SP
“I have always wanted to serve my country. I grew up in a small town and we didn’t have very much money or time to travel,” Jason Strickland told AIN.
While an aeronautical engineering student at the University of Maryland, Strickland interviewed with several branches of the military and found that the Air National Guard was the right fit for him and his family.
“I joined the Guard in 1996 and went to pilot training two years later. Now I get to serve my country while traveling all over the world. Our unit serves not only in war time, but we are also readily deployed in support of relief missions and patriotic activities,” he said.
Strickland is a major (he was promoted from captain 18 months ago) in the Delaware Air National Guard, a division of the U.S. Air Force. He is a C-130 commander for the 166th Air Lift Wing in the 142nd Air Lift Squadron.
“In addition to flying the C-130 I am an instructor and examiner pilot. I provide instruction for non-current pilots as well as conduct flight evaluations for all pilots and copilots in the squadron. In that role I work for the Wingπs Standards and Evaluations section. We’re charged with maintaining the flying standards of the Air Force within our squadron,” he said.
Strickland, who has logged about 3,500 hours in the C-130, has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan several times, been based in Germany to support the Bosnian war effort, and in Puerto Rico to support drug interdiction in South America.
“Flying for the Guard is diverse. For example, I flew relief missions after Hurricane Katrina and weπve worked in conjunction with the Navy Seals and Army Rangers,” he said.
Strickland has been flying for DuPont Aviation since 2001 and is currently a standardization pilot for the Challenger 300 and Gulfstream IV-SP.
“I conduct check rides for pilots and flight technicians on both aircraft. I manage the training program, which consists of all flying training requirements and OSHA safety requirements, as well as train new hires. As standards pilot, I ensure that the Challenger is in compliance with FAA, ICAO and company rules and regulations. I also fly both domestic and international flights for the company,” he said.
DuPont Aviation has 12 pilots, all of whom are rated in both aircraft, and Strickland said he is able to divide the work among his fellow pilots when he deploys. Depending upon the length of his deployment the company might also hire a contract pilot to cover his absence.
“Many of my fellow employees, as well as my family, stay in touch while I’m deployed; they offer a lot of assistance and support. Friends and coworkers have helped my wife with paperwork and benefits and sent me care packages. Jim Kohler, our chief pilot at DuPont, is a recent retiree of the Delaware Air National Guard. He and I have deployed together several times.
“Jim knows firsthand what it means to have the support of DuPont and its employees. We have a superior program in place to support our employees when theyπre deployed. Recently, Keith Shelburn, our director of aviation, was recognized by the Department of Defense for outstanding employer support of the National Guard. It is a tremendous relief to know that my family doesn’t have to change doctors or worry about benefits while I’m gone,” he said.
Strickland has been married to his wife, Karrie, for almost 16 years and they have three children. “Hogan is in eighth grade, Jared is in fifth and Ava is in first grade. Both boys are Scouts and Ava is in gymnastics. I’m preparing for my eighth deployment and my family is always on my mind. When Iπm away from home we e-mail and call when possible, and recently we started Skyping. We really enjoy being able to see each other while we talk. The kids are able to show me their art projects and math tests while I can show them where I stay and what the weather is like.”
Strickland said itπs a little easier now that the kids are older because they can help his wife around the house but itπs always a huge sacrifice for them to have their father gone for extended periods of time.
“What really stands out are the things most people take for granted. I miss basketball games, concerts, parent conferences and birthday parties. I miss family dinners, the kids’ first day of school and my anniversary, but I particularly miss my wife’s cooking! I always try to take a family vacation when I return to catch up on their lives,” he said.
While Strickland recognizes the many sacrifices that his family, friends and coworkers make for him to serve his country, he strongly believes in the reason behind it all.
“Although there are many sacrifices, I truly believe in our countryπs commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s this type of dedication on the part of so many families and companies that helps keep our country and our families safe.”