Kelly (left), Dylan and Rex pose for a photo before Kelly's familiarization flight in which Rex was flying. The flight was one of the earliest memories to inspire Dylan to also become a U.S. Air Force pilot. (Courtesy photo)
By: Staff Sgt. Kristin High, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Deploying in the military is an expected situation. Deploying to the same location with family, friends or spouses is fairly common nowadays. Deploying to separate locations and flying on the same missions as your brother, well that’s not common at all, but it happened.
Rex and Dylan, both deployed to separate parts of Afghanistan and attached to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, were able to fly together, but not in the way people may think. Rex, the eldest, is an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot and Dylan, the younger of the two, is a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot.
"I still remember when I was a 1st Lt. stationed at Eielson AFB [Air Force Base],” said Rex. "Dylan came up to watch our other brother, Kelly, get a familiarization flight in one of the F-16s. Dylan was only 11 years old, and I never thought 14 years later, we would meet up over the skies of Afghanistan on such an important mission.”
The brothers come from a family of five children, three of them, Rex, Kelly, and Dylan, all became U.S. Air Force pilots, but that’s not where the legacy started. Their father flew the F-4 Phantom II in the U.S. Navy.
"I knew I wanted to fly and my chances were best with the Air Force,” said Rex. "AFROTC [Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps] was offered at my college and that is where I received my commission. My two brothers then followed me and also commissioned through AFROTC and went on to fly EC-130s [Hercules] and KC-135s.”
With Rex and Kelly already in the military, Dylan decided to step out of the shadows as well.
"The decision to join the Air Force with aspirations to become a pilot was primarily influenced by my family,” said Dylan. "Their guidance and support sparked my personal motivation to join the military, and follow in their footsteps.”
Dylan expressed his gratitude for the moments he shared.
"Having the opportunity to execute combat sorties with my older brother over Afghanistan has been an amazing and rewarding experience, and honestly a pretty surreal feeling,” he said. "It brought a great sense of fulfillment, when you think back to the dream of following in your brothers footsteps as a kid, and now being able to make that dream come to fruition and fly in a combat role with him.”
"I think it’s something that we won’t feel the true magnitude of the moment until we look back on it, 15-20 years from now,” he said.
Rex and Dylan were not only able to serve together, but they’ve flown six combat sorties together. Although all the missions were important, one stood out.
"Our mission was in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel working with a Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC),” said Rex. "The mission was to provide air support to the U.S. and coalition forces on the ground advising Afghan Special Forces while they pushed through a valley clearing it of Taliban and ISIS-K.”
The mission involved air-to-ground support from Rex’s F-16 Fighting Falcon.
"We had successfully destroyed a weapons cache in a cave, three buildings, and four enemy killed in action,” Rex continued. "[My brother’s aircraft] played a vital role over this four-hour period. The targeting was dynamic and we were unable to make our scheduled air refueling time and they were able to move closer to our position and were ready to give us gas when we needed it.”
The combined efforts led to meeting the ground commander’s intent, resulting in a successful mission.
"Never did I imagine that my younger brother and I would fly together in support of a mission like this,” said Rex.
From aspirations to dreams coming true, the unique family of pilots has sacrificed decades to serve the country and protect the freedoms of so many.
Rex ended with a bit of advice for his little brother and for future pilots.
"Don’t rush your career, enjoy every sortie, and to continue to push forward with bettering yourself and those around you,” Rex said. "Never rest on your laurels.”
Established in 2009, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan is a U.S.-led mission that directs and enables U.S. military operations in support of Resolute Support, NATO’s train, advise and assist mission. Its purpose is to sustain campaign momentum in Afghanistan. It is also tasked with executing responsibilities and oversight for manpower, material and logistics, basing and operational movement in the country, supporting a responsible economic transition that encourages a resilient Afghan economy.