Lt Col David Vetter

Current Chief of Standardization and Evaluation

Formerly T-37 Instructor Pilot, T-38 Adversary Pilot, F-15C Eagle Pilot, and MC-12 Pilot

What made you pursue ROTC and a career in the military?

I have wanted to be a pilot since grade school.  When I was a Junior in high school, I attended an Air Force Academy seminar outlining appointment requirements, but did not pursue the nomination process.  Early in my high school Senior year, my guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do in life.  I told him I wanted to be a pilot, and he recommended that I apply for an ROTC scholarship.  I was awarded a scholarship that took me through college and into the Air Force.

Where did you see your career going when you were a cadet?

I started BYU AFROTC in the fall of 1988, at the pinnacle of Reagan's Air Force.  The Air Force was minting thousands of pilots a year, and my dream appeared to be attainable.  Desert Storm and the subsequent "peace dividend" led to a dramatic down-sizing of the Air Force.  This happened while I was serving a mission.  When I returned to BYU for Winter semester 1992, almost all cadets that had pilot slots lost them as the Air Force turned off the pilot training pipeline.  I spent the next two years mentally preparing to be a Civil Engineer in the Air Force, with a plan to serve four years and move into civilian life.  My senior year, pilot slots were bumped from 350 to 700 across the Air Force, and I was selected to go to pilot training.

Has it followed that path? How or how not?

I attended Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard AFB.  I stayed at ENJJPT to serve a 3-year assignment as an instructor pilot (FAIP).  From that assignment, I was able to fly the F-15C Eagle, an aircraft I never could have competed for out of pilot training.  I flew the Eagle for seven years, at Mountain Home AFB, ID, Tyndall AFB, FL, and Langley AFB, VA.  I took a five-year bonus that took me to 15 years of service.  About that time, I began flying the T-38 as an Adversary Pilot for the F-22, and did that until I reached 20 years.  I was passed over to O-5, but was selectively continued to 20 years.  I had the option to continue to serve to 24 years as an O-4.  In lieu of retirement at 20 ($3000/month retirement check), I transferred to the Reserves with 20 years of service.  I promoted to O-5 in the Reserves, and will serve to 24 before finally retiring.

What is your current job/assignment?

I currently serve as the Chief of Standardization and Evaluation for the 710th Combat Operations Squadron, an AOC Augmentation Squadron that supports the 609th AOC at Al Udeid AB, Qatar.  During my 20 years active duty, I flew the T-37 as an instructor pilot, the F-15C Eagle, the MC-12 ISR platform, and the T-38 as an adversary pilot.  I also spent one year at Osan AB, Republic of Korea, working in the 607th AOC, and four years on Air Combat Command staff as the F-15C Functional Area Manager at Langley AFB (two years of which were flying).

What do you like most about it (and the AF in general)?

As was taught/explained when I was a cadet, serving in the military gave me the opportunity to work with an amazing team.  Air Force people across all career fields are great.  I found that serving in more remote areas (e.g. Mountain Home, ID; Prince Sultan AB, KSA; Osan AB, ROK; and Bagram AB, Afghanistan) has led to the development of lifelong friendships.  Living on base with other young families is great.

What do you like least about it (and the AF in general)?

After my first ten years, I was sick of moving.  I always dreaded leaving my family for deployments.  I also hated having my behavior influenced by "what would make a good OPR bullet" and by the perception (with evidence) that future leaders are anointed as mid-level captains, and then groomed all the way to General.  I didn't lose much sleep over that, though, especially when I came to understand how much they worked themselves to the bone.

What surprised you most about the Air Force?

Honestly, the drinking culture was shocking.  I was a naïve BYU graduate that did not expect to have alcohol drive so much social interaction.  But that is not unique to the military....

What advice do you have for future/current cadets?

Here is my advice:  know what your five- and ten-year plans are for your life.  Two years out from any commitment, reassess your plans to stay in the Air Force.  When you commit to stay in, find a mentor/coach that can guide you to fill the squares needed to make rank on time.  No one is concerned for your career unless you ask them. 

How did ROTC prepare you for your job now?

ROTC taught me basic leadership skills, how to work as a team, and gave me good expectations for life on active duty.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I am blessed to have earned a full military retirement.  I'm having a fun time now working part-time as a Reserve officer, while flying for Delta Air Lines!  My dream from grade school has been achieved.