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Becoming A Marine Corps Pilot - Not An Archaeologist
by U.S. Marine Corps LCpl. Joseph Abrego
January 2, 2017

U.S. Navy / Marine Corps Aviator Wing“I was never going to join the military, I was never going to be a pilot,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Bud Daniel, an AV-8B Harrier pilot and logistics officer for Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542. “I thought I was going to be an archaeologist when I was little, got into science when I went to college and wanted to be an engineer.”

A native of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, Daniel dreamed of being a pilot, but accepted defeat early on due to his bad eye sight.

“I had always wanted to be a pilot but I knew my eye sight would stop that from happening,” said Daniel. “My dad was a pilot in the Marine Corps and I looked up to him for it. It was one of my dreams and I didn't think it was going to be something I could do.”

Daniel was coming up on his senior year of college unsure of what he wanted to do with his life and began to look into the military as an option.

“The turning point for me was when I did an internship at Lycoming Engines the summer after my junior year of college,” said Daniel. “I thought I would be helping design aircraft or engines but it turned out that a lot of engineers design very specific components and it drove me crazy. They do great things at that company but I just couldn't do it.”

It was when Daniel discovered that he could get the corrective eye surgery necessary to be a pilot that he began to accept his dream of being a pilot as a reality.

“I asked my parents for money,” said Daniel. “I had never done that before and thought I never would. At that point I paid my way through college and got by on my own, but in this situation they helped me out to get the surgery done.”

With his vision improved and sights set on becoming a pilot, Daniel decided to join the Marine Corps and begin his career.

“My dad was a Marine and there was a certain appeal of the Marine Corps,” said Daniel. “The can do and tip of the spear attitude drew me in.”

Daniel said becoming a pilot was something he really had to work toward. All of the memorization and concepts that were constantly changing was like having to relearn how to learn.

With training well underway, Daniel went on to meet another fellow pilot during flight school in Corpus Christi, Texas, who would later fly in the same unit as him.

“He's a very upbeat guy who enjoys laughing and knows how to create a good time out of any situation,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jason Wright, an AV-8B Harrier pilot with VMA-542. “He genuinely enjoys flying and while having a good time still stays focused on the task at hand.”

Daniel takes the opportunities to enjoy the flights when he can and make memories that will last a lifetime.

“The first time I soloed an aircraft was in a T-34 and there was a big cloud in front of me,” said Daniel. “Being able to cloud surf and fly upside down for the first time by myself was sensational. Later that flight I opened the canopy and felt like someone from World War I.”

Daniel's sense of enjoyment for flying is a bridge for other pilots to remember why they do what they do.

“When you fly you can tell a lot by someone's tone about how they're doing,” said Wright. “He always brings spirits up during flight, makes things much less stressful and allows us as pilots to focus on what's necessary.”

Wright said Daniel is a very good leader who genuinely cares about his Marines and looks out for their best interests no matter the situation.

To Daniel, being a pilot wouldn't be the same without the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps makes flying second to none through the bonds he has formed.

“It means much more for me to be a pilot for the Marine Corps,” said Daniel. “I went to Officer Candidate School with some of the guys on the ground and it's so much more personal for me to perform my best.”

By U.S. Marine Corps LCpl. Joseph Abrego
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2016

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