JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., July 30, 2014 – In 2009, a young
Air Force lieutenant in pilot training thought his dreams of flying
in the Air Force were crushed after a recreational boating accident
resulted in the loss of his right leg.
Despite the accident,
Capt. Ryan McGuire, now a 4th Airlift Squadron pilot, became the
first airman to complete Air Force pilot training after losing a
leg. He since has become a motivational speaker to airmen.
The boating accident happened when McGuire was in pilot training at
Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The boat McGuire was on was towing a
float with a rope. The rope wrapped around McGuire's leg, fracturing
his pelvis, dislocating his hip and cutting off the blood
circulation to his leg.
Six weeks later, McGuire's leg was
U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan McGuire, 4th Airlift Squadron pilot, speaks about overcoming adversity and adapting, Nov. 9, 2012, during Wingman Day at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. McGuire, who lost his leg during a boating accident, managed to overcome his adversity and finish pilot training, despite being told by doctors that it would be virtually impossible to remain in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo
by Staff Sgt. Sean Tobin)
"The days leading up to the amputation were overwhelming
and depressing," McGuire said. "The amputation was
miserable. I was at the lowest of low."
his depression was compounded by the fact that he probably
would not be allowed to fulfill his dream of completing
pilot training in the Air Force. But when he began his
rehabilitation program, he added, he began to realize his
situation might not have been as dire as he thought it was.
After his surgery, McGuire was waiting for a physical
therapy appointment when a soldier asked him when he had
lost his leg.
"Last week," McGuire responded.
McGuire said he was surprised when the soldier told him he
had lost a leg the previous year. "Seeing him in uniform
walking perfectly normal made me realize that being an
amputee doesn't define me," the captain said.
addition to his rehabilitation, McGuire said, the support
system of his family, friends and Air Force wingmen was a
key part of his recovery.
"From my wing commander to
my flight commander, they supported my family and me
throughout my recovery," McGuire said.
In addition to
the challenge of recovering from his injury, McGuire faced
the possibility of being medically discharged from the Air
Force. Having wanted to fly since the age of 5 and entering
the Air Force Academy with expectations of becoming a pilot,
he said, the thought of losing the opportunity to fly was
To stay in the Air Force and fly,
McGuire had to go before a formal medical evaluation review
board to prove he was able to continue pilot training. To
get a waiver to fly, he had to show the board he could still
do everything that would be required of him as an Air Force
Faced with what looked to him like impossible
odds, McGuire said, the help of his rehabilitation and the
support of his Air Force family enabled him to present his
case effectively and receive a waiver to continue flying.
"My squadron supported my decision to stay in the Air
Force and assisted me in the process of getting a waiver to
fly again. ... They were going to support me no matter what,"
In May 2011, McGuire completed his pilot
training and by October of that same year, he finished C-17
Globemaster III qualification training. He since has
deployed and flown medical evacuation missions, but he also
has become known for his inspiring story of resilience.
"Most people don't even know that Ryan lost a leg during
pilot training," said Air Force Lt. Col. Matt Anderson, the
4th Airlift Squadron commander. "The fact that he doesn't
talk about it is why his story of incredible resiliency and
mental toughness is awesome. He just wants to be part of the
team like everyone else."
McGuire has spoken to
airmen and civilians at numerous events, including McChord's
Wingman Day in 2012, the Air Force Academy's National
Character Leadership Symposium in 2013, and more recently,
at the 305th Air Mobility Wing's Mission Focus Day at Joint
Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
represented Team McChord by speaking at these large venues
across the country about resiliency, sacrifice and selfless
service, each time leaving the stage with a standing
ovation," Anderson said. "Ryan's positive attitude,
incredible work ethic and desire to be part of something
bigger than himself make him an incredible officer and
inspiration to others."
McGuire said he is passionate
about speaking at various events to give back to the Air
Force and help others overcome diversities.
Force has given me the opportunity to excel and overcome
this injury," McGuire said. "I hope to show others that
they, too, can overcome an injury or a setback like I did. I
want them to know that the Air Force takes care of its
people and will provide them with the tools and resources to
Since arriving here, McGuire said, he has
received the same treatment as everyone else and that he has
never been singled out or mistreated for being an amputee.
"If you are facing adversity, you have a support system
in the Air Force," McGuire said. "It will never be too much
for the Air Force to help you get to the other side. No
other job in the world gives the support that the Air Force
McGuire encourages other airmen facing similar
challenges not to lose hope.
"Never take no for an
answer, keep pushing forward and the Air Force will have
your back," he said. "For every challenge, there always has
to be a first to overcome it. In my case, I was that first.
You can be a first, too."
By USAF Airman 1st Class Jacob Jimenez
Air Force News Service
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