Having a brother can be an adventure. Big brothers are
always showing off, and little brothers are always tagging along.
And brothers fight -- all the time.
For brothers Noel and Justin Larson, growing up was no different.
February 12, 2017 - Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Justin Larson,
left, and Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Noel Larson pose for a photo
in the cockpit of a Black Hawk helicopter they use for their
aviation duties. The brothers were promoted on the same day at the Aviation Readiness Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
(Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jodi Eastham)
“We fought constantly as children — our poor mother. At
the same time, we always had each other's back,” Noel said.
“We could have a knock-down fight one minute, and the next
minute be building a fort together.”
It was their
competitive nature that brought out the drive to be
successful and made the afternoon of Feb. 11 special for the
Larson brothers. With more than 54 years of combined
military service, 10,000 flying hours and multiple overseas
deployments, Noel and Justin Larson were promoted to chief
warrant officer 5 and chief warrant officer 4, respectively,
during a short and casual ceremony at the Army Aviation
Support Facility here.
“I have known Justin and Noel
for years,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Teresa
Burgess, the Washington National Guard’s command chief
warrant officer. “I have been blessed to have flown with
them stateside and in Iraq. While Noel flew special
operations flights, Justin was there when I took off and
when I landed, ensuring my aircraft was properly maintained
and ready to go for the next crew. That always meant a lot
Passion for Aviation
Larson is a year and four months younger than his brother.
He joined the Washington National Guard in 1988 and
graduated from flight school in 1995.
“Justin had a bigger passion [for
aviation growing up], and it was contagious; the bug got
me,” said Noel, aviation standardization officer for
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 66th Theater Aviation
Justin took a different path to the
helicopter cockpit. He joined the Marine Corps in 1988
before joining the Washington National Guard in 2000.
“We’ve always loved aviation,” said Justin, aviation
material officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st
Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment. “We just didn’t know how
we wanted to go about it in the beginning.”
On any given day, the brothers can be seen diligently
providing support for the state’s hectic aviation mission.
Noel could be on one side of the building training the
future UH-60 Black Hawk pilots coming in to the
organization, while Justin could be in the maintenance bay
ripping apart and putting back together the same helicopters
that the brothers have flown for years.
“I work on
training pilots and I break stuff. My brother fixes the
stuff and takes it on check rides to verify it works
properly,” Noel said.
For the last 17 years, the
Larson brothers have been counted on to provide critical
support to the state of Washington during many emergency
response missions. Both brothers flew missions in Louisiana
after the destruction of hurricane Katrina and Rita. They
provided support in the aftermath of the State Route 530
Landslide and have flown numerous missions dealing with
floods and fires throughout the state.
It’s the work
the brothers have done while deployed that has given them
On the night of March 25, 2008,
while deployed to an undisclosed location, Noel was the
pilot and mission coordinator on board a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter was configured to perform reconnaissance in
direct support of a raid being conducted by coalition
During planning, it became
evident that poor weather was going to limit the number of
air assets able to support the mission, but the command
determined the mission would proceed. As Noel and his crew
arrived over the objective, the restricted visibility from a
dust storm made it difficult to gain the normal levels of
situational awareness. Despite the added difficulty, Noel
directed a detailed and methodical reconnaissance of the
objective area and wrote a succinct report that allowed the
ground force, now moving into the area, to better understand
the terrain and enemy situation.
As the ground forces dismounted, the enemy opened fire
and the assault force took immediate casualties.
soon as they started taking fire, we were going over our
options on how we could help them," Noel said. “My aircraft
was already in the air and the medical aircraft couldn’t get
into the air, so my team and I landed to help the wounded.”
For his heroic actions and operating his aircraft while
under heavy enemy fire, Noel earned the Distinguished Flying
Cross, a decoration awarded for heroism or extraordinary
achievement in a flight undertaken voluntarily and beyond
the call of duty.
While Noel has been recognized for
his accomplishments in the air, Justin continues to break
records and be recognized for his work fixing the
helicopters that they fly.
“Justin’s proactive nature
in getting broken aircraft fixed during deployment has set a
national record for getting aircraft back in the air,” said
Army Brig. Gen. Wallace Turner, assistant adjutant general.
“He’s one of the best test pilots in the nation.”
With so many accolades and military honors bestowed upon
them, the brothers, ever humble, continue to give their
support to Washington aviation and each other day in and day
out. “It was pretty awesome [being promoted together], I
think we can both say that it is nice to see your siblings
succeed -- and in this case it was simultaneous reward,”
“We are blessed to have two of the hardest working, talented
aviators in Washington,” Burgess said. “The organization is in good
hands with the two of them leading the way in training and
By U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Siemandel, Washington National Guard
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