I saw 'Top Gun' and wanted to fly

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 9/3/96.

Chad Christopherson, who is home visiting through Sept. 8, pinned on his captain's bars in April.

Christopherson, who marked his four-year anniversary in the Air Force last Saturday, is a navigator. He went through the Air Force's ROTC program at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D.

"I saw ÎTop Gun' and wanted to fly," Christopherson said. He didn't have much Air Force background in his family and tried the ROTC program out. He liked it. He signed his name on the dotted line his junior year.

He received a reserve Air Force commission in conjunction with his graduation in December 1991. In August of that year, Christopherson entered the active duty Air Force.

His first job was a section squadron commander in Okinawa, Japan. Here, Christopherson's main duty was paper work. He took care of letters of reprimand, Article 15s and other disciplinary items.

After Japan, Christopherson went to Mississippi. Then he went through a year of navigator school at Randolf Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

All four of Christopherson's stations have been in warm weather. "We miss the snow, but when it's 75 at Christmas," he said he got over missing the snow.

In May, Christopherson was transferred to his current station at Davismonthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. Since then, he has been flying as part of a C-130 crew.
An entire crew is 17 people. Four are up front, and the other 13 (of which Christopherson is one) are in a separate rear capsule "full of radios."

Christopherson communicates with the Army's ground personnel, who would clear targets in war time. He is part of an airborne link between the military forces on the ground and the fighters and attack planes.

"If you're in the Air Force, the best place to be is flying," Christopherson said. As a cadet, Christopherson had both a pilot slot and a navigator slot, but both were cut. Once he got to be a navigator, Christopherson was in demand, since a rather small percent of the Air Force's personnel are actually trained to fly.

In December, Christopherson will leave for Italy. There, he will fly on a three-day rotation in support of forces in Bosnia. The crews take turns: they fly one day, sit alert one day and rest one day. Christopherson will stay in Italy for 60 days. Three crews are there all the time and each airman has two rotations per year. In his current navigator job, Christopherson can expect to be gone 120 days every year.

"It will be hard being gone during Christmas," he said about his time in Italy.

Christopherson and his wife, the former Sandi McCoy, have three children, two boys and one girl. Christopherson was eight hours late for the birth of his daughter, because he was on a training flight in California.

Christopherson likes his job. Although he graduated with an economics degree from SDSU, he plans to be a career Air Force officer. Right now, he doesn't know if he'll stay in past the 20 years required for retirement benefits.

"If it comes up to 20 (years) and I still enjoy what I'm doing," then Christopherson said he would probably stick with the Air Force for a few more years.

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