HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- "I remember the first
time I climbed into an F-16 (Fighting Falcon) and the canopy
closed," he said. "I had my mask on, and it was so quiet. I was
amazed at how quiet and peaceful it was. At that moment, I knew the
cockpit was where I was meant to be."
To get into that
cockpit, Maj. Robin Lytle had to navigate a long path.
Maj. Robin Lytle began his career as a weapons loader in 1989 at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas. Lytle is a 93rd Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot and the chief of scheduling. (U.S. Air Force photo
taken on July 3, 2013 by Senior Airman Jaimi Upthegrove)
Lytle, an F-16 pilot with the 93rd Fighter Squadron here,
was born in Laredo, Texas, and spent the better part of his
youth moving around with his military family. His father was
a pilot, but initially Lytle had no intentions of becoming a
However, he did have a calling to follow in
his family's long line of military service, which goes back
three generations to his great grandfather. Lytle joined the
Air Force Reserve as a weapons loader at Bergstrom Air Force
Base, Texas, after he graduated high school in 1989.
Life on the flightline
"I spent a day shadowing
the weapons loaders at Bergstrom (AFB) and I knew it was the
job for me," Lytle said. "I just liked watching them load
the bombs and move the missiles around. I knew it was a
vital job in the Air Force, and I wanted to be a part of
Lytle worked on the flightline at Bergstrom AFB
while attending college. For four years he developed his
"I loved taking something that needed
repair, fixing it and being able to deliver a finished
product to serve the mission," Lytle said. "I received a
great amount of satisfaction from the job."
college, Lytle majored in aeronautics, and during his
Reserve career he aspired to become a maintenance officer.
He said he earned a name for himself as a dedicated Airman.
"I learned early on to let my work ethic speak for me,"
Lytle said. "The most important thing I learned from my time
on the (flightline) is that a good work ethic is essential
to earning the respect of others."
with his bachelor's degree in 1995 from the University of
One day, his director of operations asked
him what he intended to do with his degree. Lytle told him
he wanted to become a maintenance officer.
day on the flightline, Lytle's career trajectory took a
Transition to the cockpit
"One morning I
was sitting on an F-16 fixing a gun issue that had been
giving us trouble for a few days," Lytle said. "I watched
the pilots walk out, get into their jets and take off. As I
sat there, knee deep in a gun belt, I thought to myself that
I wanted to do that."
Lytle went back to his director
of operations, let him know he wanted to apply for pilot
training and started building his package to submit to the
"I was sweating waiting for an
answer," Lytle said. "There was a lot on the line. I really
While waiting to hear from the board,
Lytle was offered a weapons loader position as an Air
Reserve Technician at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. It
was an opportunity, at the time, he said he couldn't pass
up. He accepted and began moving.
moving to Homestead, Fla., Lytle received word he'd been
accepted into pilot training.
"I was so excited when
I found out I had been accepted into pilot training," Lytle
said. "Then the gravity of it all hit me, and I knew I
couldn't mess up."
But before pilot training, Lytle
had to first find a base that needed a new fighter pilot. He
was planning on filling a pilot slot back at Bergstrom AFB,
but the base was on the verge of closing so he had to search
for a new place to begin his life in the skies.
remember calling around to every fighter base, but I
couldn't find a base that would take me," Lytle said. "The
director of operations at my base spoke with the commander
about my situation."
As luck would have it, the
commander at his previous base was about to become the new
wing commander at Homestead ARB. Because of Lytle's
reputation for his dedication and work ethic, the commander
said he'd make sure Lytle would have a spot at Homestead
"I was meant to be at Homestead," Lytle said.
Life in the cockpit
"I kid you not, pilot
training was the most intense thing I have ever been through
because they're throwing so much information at you all at
once," Lytle said. "All my free time went to studying. Being
a pilot is hard work, but it's highly rewarding knowing
you're keeping the guys on the ground safe."
According to Lt. Col. Timothy Rusch, the 93rd FS director of
operations, due to his diverse experience, Lytle truly
understands what the maintainers go through, which gives him
a unique perspective as a pilot.
"My heart is on the
(flightline)," Lytle said. "I really enjoy the chief of
scheduling role because I get to interact with the
maintainers and it brings me one step closer to the (flightline)."
During a recent operational readiness inspection, Lytle
was key in the 93rd FS's communications with maintenance,
"He efficiently and effectively gets the
job done and considers his people while he does it," Rusch
Lytle said he still loves being out on the
flightline and finds every possible opportunity to get out
there. He still looks back on his time as a weapons loader
as a vital asset in his career experience.
about the long hours that are involved in keeping this jet
armed and mission ready," he said. "This experience helps me
be a better pilot because when there's an issue, I have
unique insight as to what might have gone wrong. I've
definitely been involved in situations where I drew from
knowledge I acquired as a weapons loader."
By USAF Senior Airman Jaimi Upthegrove
Air Force News Service
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