Soldier Finds Careers Take Flight When You Put in Time and Effort

Michael Parkins had always had an interest in aviation, but he considered a career as a pilot “kind of more of a dream, not something that was necessarily attainable.”

But Parkins found that once he put in the time and the effort, he could become a helicopter pilot no matter what roadblocks he encountered. Parkins, 27, is a Warrant Officer with the Wyoming Army National Guard, and as of February 2016, a freshly graduated Black Hawk pilot.

Before he could get his hands on flight instruments, WO1 Parkins was more of an expert in instruments of the musical variety – as in the trumpet and piano. The Cheyenne, Wyo. native joined the Guard six years ago as a 42R Army Band member while he was in college pursuing a music education degree. 

WO1 Parkins credits both his college and his Guard experience in giving him the confidence and perseverance to pursue both his part-time Guard career in aviation and his new full-time civilian career as a police officer.

“Between my experience in the Guard and in music education, having to stand up and teach, both of those have helped me a lot with my leadership experience and just my drive and determination in general.”

WO1 Parkins was initially turned down for a flight slot the first time he applied. Part of the problem was he was on a voluntary deployment overseas in Bahrain and had nowhere to take a Selection Instrument for Flight Training (SIFT) test, one of the requirements necessary for his application. Luckily, another slot opened up in Wyoming soon after, and he got it.

WO1 Parkins spent 15 months in flight school, followed by more training to improve his readiness levels in piloting the Black Hawk, considered to be the military’s most versatile helicopter because it can be used for a variety of missions, including air assaults, medical evacuations, and sling load operations to carry a heavy item like a howitzer or a Humvee beneath the aircraft. It can be used during all types of weather conditions and is equipped with night vision capability.

WO1 Michael Parkins in the cockpit of an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter.

WO1 Michael Parkins in the cockpit of an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter.

Earlier this month, WO1 Parkins was on medevac standby for a fire in the northwestern part of the State. While he did not perform an actual rescue, it was his first service mission as a helicopter pilot. Because Wyoming, like many western States has a drier climate, WO1 Parkins expects to be called upon during a wildfire again.

“A lot of Units just constantly train and sometimes never get to do their job, but that’s not the case for us,” says WO1 Parkins. “We frequently get chances to perform our job, which I think is pretty awesome. 

One of the Guard’s primary missions is to serve the community, especially in emergency situations like natural disasters.

“We don’t necessarily have to be deployed overseas to do our mission,” says WO1 Parkins. “We can get called up to move sandbags, to help do search and rescue missions, medevac standby, firefighting. There are all sorts of opportunities that we have to save lives not only overseas, but here stateside, on a regular basis.”

He also appreciates the flexibility of being able to serve in the Guard part-time to do a mission “that helps people out but still get to pick what I want to do as a full-time career that could be something completely different.”

So if your interests are as wide-ranging as WO1 Parkins’ are, the Guard is sure to have a career that suits you. There are more than 150 fields to choose from. Learn more about them on our job board or contact a recruiter today.


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