Where Are They Now? - Maj. Jacob Fuchs (USAF)
Only a few years removed from the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Jenks High School, Major Jacob Fuchs (Class of '02) found himself in the cockpit of the C-130, one of the largest, and most expensive aircraft in the entire United States Air Force. After many years and many missions of safely transporting troops and cargo in combat zones and locations around the world, Fuchs is now using his expertise and experience to train the next generation of Air Force pilots. In this alumni profile, Fuchs, who is now a Formal Training Evaluator Pilot and Wing Executive Officer at Little Rock Air Force Base, shares his desire to serve his country and describes how he fell in love with flying.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks High School?
MAJ. FUCHS: I enjoyed the time I spent participating in the AFJROTC program. Mostly the time spent traveling to competitions and after school during many practice sessions. There were several instructors who inspired me to become an Air Force pilot, especially Lt Col Wayne Wilbanks, who was a C-141 pilot while he was on active duty.
Was there one particular teacher or principal who inspired you or made a lasting impact in your life?
MAJ. FUCHS: As I mentioned, Lt Col Wilbanks was a great inspiration to become a pilot and join the Air Force. There were many others who have impacted me including Mrs. Annmarie Wright. Mrs. Wright’s History and Leadership classes always kept me interested in learning, but it was her dedication to making her students better people which I loved the most.
When did you first become interested in aviation?
MAJ. FUCHS: I have always loved airplanes for as long as I can remember. I never truly thought about becoming a pilot until I took my first flight in a helicopter at an airshow in Muskogee around 1996. My Mom always says “he never truly came down out of the sky after that flight”. It’s true, I was hooked and I worked hard to get into an airplane anyway I could.
What made you decide to become a pilot in the Air Force?
MAJ. FUCHS: It wasn’t just flying that I loved. I wanted to serve. I wanted to make my home, my state, and my country better. When September 11, 2001 happened, I was a senior at JHS and I wanted to play a part in making this world better. I applied for an ROTC scholarship and the Air Force paid for tuition and fees for my entire bachelor’s degree. I would not have been able to go to college without this type of assistance. I was given the opportunity to fly for the Air Force and I took it and haven’t let go yet.
How would you describe the rush you get from piloting an aircraft?
MAJ. FUCHS: There are so many emotions, it’s hard to describe, but the most common one is freedom. I can go anywhere, do anything, and I can lead a crew to accomplish our mission in almost any environment. Also, most pilots thrive on chaos. They can analyze extremely stressful situations and take positive actions to restore order. However, it is a skill which is rarely used. Most flying can be described by “hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror”. This is especially true in my current job instructing new pilots and loadmasters to fly the C-130J. The greatest thrill is overcoming all of the challenges and returning home knowing the mission was successful.
Describe the first time you were in control of the C-130? Was it a feeling of fear or pure excitement to be in control of something with such immense power and mass?
MAJ. FUCHS: It was overwhelming. Standing in the shadow of the airplane and looking at the massive props, but then I realized what the aircraft allowed me to do and how I needed to trust in my training. I still couldn’t believe that somebody trusted me to fly this multi-million dollar aircraft with 100 passengers and cargo into a combat zone….and I was 25 years old the first time I deployed to Iraq as a young copilot.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your role in training young pilots?
MAJ. FUCHS: I enjoy instructing new crew members and showing them what we can do in a C-130. We are tactical airlift experts which means I can airlift, airdrop or provide aeromedical evacuation if called upon. The C-130J may look big, but a lot of the pilots are surprised at how nimble it is. I try to pass on my experiences to them with the hope that it keeps them safe long enough for them to build upon their own experience.
In your years of service and countless hours in the air, have you encountered any close calls or executed any particularly dangerous missions?
MAJ. FUCHS: There are many experiences where I came close to colliding with other airplanes and each one is burned into my mind. I also remember every time I was shot at and, in the variant of C-130 I fly, we can’t shoot back. There are also missions into dirt runways in Iraq and places in Africa which provide their own particular dangers, like hitting animals on the runway or the airplane sinking into the dirt or asphalt.
When you reflect on serving your country for the last decade – the jobs, the planes, the various locations around the world – what gives you the most pride or satisfaction?
MAJ. FUCHS: The people I served with. I’m not sure what impact I have had, but I know that the men and women I have served with are some of the best in the world. We are an all-volunteer force which means we all willingly raised our hands. We all had different motivations, but we volunteered to fight our nations battles when called upon.
How often do you make it back to Jenks, and do you keep in touch with other members of your Trojan family?
MAJ. FUCHS: I return to the Tulsa area every few months. I still have family in the area. I try to keep up with friends from Jenks, but I have found it difficult, even with social media, etc. There are a few that I have managed to stay in touch with, but I wish I could do more.
What is next for you both personally, and professionally?
MAJ. FUCHS: In short, I don’t know exactly. This country is in the middle of a shortage of pilots. My commitment to the Air Force ends in 2019. I could stay in the Air Force or I can separate and interview for jobs elsewhere. At the moment, I’m not sure where I will end up, but the prospects are encouraging either way, Air Force or not.