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June's Excellent Airman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kasie Faddis
  • 117th Air Refueling Wing

This month’s Excellent Airman is Capt. Charles “Chuck” O’Rourke, a KC-135R Stratotanker pilot with the 117th Operations Group!

In 2010 O’Rourke enlisted into the Command Post and left for basic training in August of the same year. In 2012, he earned a full-time spot as a Command Post Controller. At the end of 2017, O’Rourke went before the pilot selection board and was selected. At the beginning of 2019, he left for Officer Training School and Undergraduate Pilot Training to continue his journey to become a KC-135R pilot. In 2021, he completed his official training and has been flying since.

“I was 19 and working at a dry-cleaning business when I decided to enlist. My dad called me one day and said one of his friends, who was an airline pilot, had his own airplane, then asked if I wanted to come fly in it, so I did,” O’Rourke said. “It was amazing, and I asked how I could do this for a living. My dad said don’t do it the way he did it, join the Guard.”

O’Rourke is a full-time technician within the Operations Group and enjoys watching his children play soccer when he isn’t flying among the clouds.

“My wife and I have both of our kids in soccer now and live at the soccer fields. We are there three days a week during the week for practice and most weekends we are there,” said O’Rourke. “We used to go camping, dirt bike riding, trail riding and water skiing. Now my wife has the soccer mom shirt, and we spend a lot of time watching our kids play soccer. I didn’t like soccer when I was a kid, but my son is just really good at it.”

During his military career he has seen his fair share of obstacles, such as being separated from family and missing different moments with them. O’Rourke said he was graded on everything he did in training for a solid year and a half, so it definitely presented some mental challenges. He said it was always nerve wracking just because every single move he made was graded.

“I guess pilot training was the biggest challenge. I was married and we had one child right after Initial Flight Training, so that was our second. Being separated because my wife has a full-time career here, the kids go to school here. We didn’t want to move them, and it was Columbus, Mississippi so it wasn’t that far away,” he said. “I would go stay there during the week and come home on the weekends, so that made it easier, but you’re still not with them all the time."

O'Rourke had training at several bases to become a pilot. When he left for Altus AFB, Oklahoma he spent six straight months without his family and instead of coming home to them, he came home to a phone call. Even though his pilot training was one of the most difficult things he accomplished in his military career, it was also one of the most rewarding things.

“It can open up a lot of doors and you meet a ton of people. It is definitely not a bad career path although it can be challenging and difficult to time things correctly,” said O’Rourke. “Pilot training is very much a thing that if you put in the work, you will get the results, especially if you have gotten to that point where you can fly the airplane. The work is like college, you either put in the effort or you don’t.”