Growing up, they flew with their father, dreaming of being in his
seat one day. The older brother joined the Air Force and earned his
wings and his little brother followed close in his footsteps. When
the older brother was assigned the A-10C Thunderbolt II, his little
brother jumped in his shoes, chasing the same experience. Once he
was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, his little brother followed,
bringing them the closest they’d been since childhood.
the first time, his little brother was no longer following in his
shadow, but on his wing, soaring through the sky right by his side.
They were not only brothers, they were partners, wingmen.
April 8, 2017 - Maj. Matthew Shelly, 23 Wing director of
inspections, left, and Capt. Christopher Shelly, 76th Fighter
Squadron chief of standards and evaluations stand proudly in front
of with an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Moody Air Force Base, GA. The
brothers flew in formation together for the first time, fulfilling
their childhood dream while also contributing to total force
integration, the use of multiple components of the Air Force, which
can include active duty, reserve or guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by
Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)
Maj. Matthew Shelly, 23d Wing director of inspections and a pilot
with the 74th Fighter Squadron, and his little brother, Capt.
Christopher Shelly, 76th Fighter Squadron chief of standards and
evaluations, flew in formation together for the first time, April 8,
2017, over Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
“Flying with my little
brother was super cool,” said Matt. “It was like when were kids and
would go out on adventures on our bikes armed with sling-shots and
water guns to fight imaginary bad guys in the woods.
this time, we were riding 40,000 pound A-10s and armed with BDU-33
bombs and 30 mm rounds to shoot imaginary bad guys on the bombing
With a father who was an avid pilot, the Shelly
brothers learned to fly at a young age and both became civilian
private pilots in high school.
After being involved in Air
Force ROTC, Matt began his career as a pilot in the Air Force.
Witnessing Matt’s new lifestyle, Chris soon decided he wanted to be
a part of it.
“I had always thought about joining the
military as a pilot,” said Chris. “But, the moment I knew I really
wanted to pursue it was when I attended Matt’s drop night and saw
that he was assigned the A-10. I saw the camaraderie that all of the
pilots had and I decided that was what I wanted to do.”
his dream in sight, he turned to his older brother for advice. Matt
knew that his little brother wanted to be in the cockpit of the
world famous “hawg,” so he advised him to join the Air Force
Reserve. By taking that route, he was able to decide for himself
what unit he wanted to be a part of, what aircraft to fly, and where
he wanted to live.
“I would be lying if I said that I would
be an A-10 pilot without my brother’s help,” said Chris. “Ever since
I joined the Air Force, I’ve called him for advice. Even today, as I
go through [pilot certification] upgrades he’s already been through,
I look through his past experiences to see the best path to take.”
Once he joined the reserve, Chris was able to select not only
the same aircraft as his brother, but become part of his Flying
Tigers team at Moody, a very rare opportunity for both of them.
Since Chris arrived here more than two years ago, the brothers
have been trying to schedule their flight together, but, until now,
schedule conflicts and various circumstances have always stood in
During their flight, Matt fulfilled the position
of flight lead, a role that came natural to him given their
April 8, 2017 - Maj. Matthew Shelly, 23 Wing director of inspections
and Capt. Christopher Shelly, 76th Fighter Squadron chief of
standards and evaluations, take off in A-10C Thunderbolt IIs at
Moody Air Force Base, GA. The brothers flew in formation together
for the first time, fulfilling their childhood dream while also
contributing to total force integration, the use of multiple
components of the Air Force, which can include active duty, reserve
or guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)
“As the flight lead, it is my job to ensure my wingman
knows where to be and what to kill, but along with that, it
is the flight lead’s responsibility to protect and guide the
wingman,” said Matt. “I think it is natural for a big
brother to want to protect his little brother. It ended up
being just like when we were kids and it was my job to make
sure the neighbor kids didn’t pick on my brothers.”
Although Matt has served as his little brother’s guardian
against others, they have always been competitive with each
other, a rivalry that stood out during their flight.
“Our relationship is exactly the same now as when were
kids,” said Matt. “Sibling rivalry is still alive and well
in the Shelly family and that came out on the bombing range.
Turns out, I am the better bomber by 5 to 1, but Chris is
better at shooting the gun, so we were both able to go home
with bragging rights.”
Although their day was one to
remember and a very cool experience for the both of them
personally, it was also monumental for the Air Force. Their
experience demonstrated the existence of total force
integration, the use of multiple components of the Air
Force, which can include active duty, reserve or guard, to
maintain and grow the force’s operational capability and
While very unique to have two
brothers flying together, it is not rare to have active duty
Airmen and reservists training and fighting together in
order to achieve the overall mission.
often they work, Airmen, especially fighter pilots, are a
total force family, something Matt was able to say after
witnessing it during his flight with his brother.
“Flying with my little brother really opened my perspective
on how special it is to be a part of a fighter squadron,”
said Matt. “It was crazy how familiar it was flying with my
brother. That may be because I am always flying with my
brother, maybe not my biological brother, but every wingman
that has ever flown on my wing, whether they’re active duty,
reservist, or guardsman, qualifies as my brother in every
sense of the term.”
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk
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