Flying high: Westfield resident talks experience with Indiana Air National Guard

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Westfield resident Travis Walton has been flying for nearly 20 years. In 2000, he enlisted as an airman with the Indiana Air National Guard while majoring in professional flight technology at Purdue University.

Now, the veteran combat pilot is a major in the Indiana Air National Guard and a commercial pilot for American Airlines.

“I enlisted to help pay for college and also to serve my country at the same time in hopes to become a fighter pilot at the Air National Guard in Fort Wayne,” Walton said. “I was enlisted for several years, and in 2003, when all my classmates graduated and they were all going to go fly for all the airlines, myself and several other men and women were deployed and mobilized to go over to Iraq to drive gun trucks for the army.

“We went over to Iraq in 2004 and I ended up getting ambushed while I was over there by insurgents, we were hit by an IED roadside bomb and it blew up the convoy and my truck.”

Walton was struck in the face and arm by shrapnel, and his hearing was damaged.

He was medivacked home but still wanted to serve as a pilot with the Air National Guard. He received the Purple Heart and, after beng medically cleared, began pilot training in 2005. He was sent Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and was trained to fly the F-16 fighter jet. He was then deployed to Iraq again in 2009.

Walton’s duty in Iraq was to support ground troops — of which he was previously one when he was wounded — by providing cover from 20,000 feet above.

In 2010, Walton was sent to Fort Wayne Air Base, where he learned to the fly the A-10 Warthog, which provides close air support for ground troops. He was then deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

After his tour of duty, Walton returned to the U.S. and served as the combat forces program manager at the National Guard Bureau in Joint Base, Md.

He then moved to Columbus, Ind., and was deployed with the first A-10 unit in Kuwait, where he flew missions to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq. He was deployed in Kuwait from 2014 to 2015.

Walton later spent time as an A-10 pilot in Slovakia.

“That’s when I realized that I wanted to pursue commercial aviation as an airline pilot, so I was very eager to do that,” Walton said. “So, I came home and I ended up getting hired by American Airlines as a commercial pilot.”

In addition to his Air National Guard duties, Walton flies a Boeing 737 for American Airlines.

“I still have a passion to serve, so now I’m a traditional guardsman in the Air National Guard,” Walton said. “So, I’m able to still support my country wearing the flight suit and also fly around the United States and the world in civilian aviation.”

In addition to his Air National Guard and commercial airline duties, Walton enjoys doing fly-bys during special events. The next event is Purdue Aviation Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 13 at the Purdue University Airport, 1501 Aviation Dr., West Lafayette.

“They asked the Fort Wayne Indiana Air National Guard if we would be able to send an A-10, and I volunteered as a Purdue Alumni,” Walton said. “I figured this would be a perfect event to go be a part of and showcase the Indiana Air National Guard, the pride of all the men and women that serve and also be a part of my alma mater.”

During the event, there will be activities such as an airplane-making contest and games such as pin the propeller. Airplane friendship bracelets and temporary airplane tattoos also will be available.

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