HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — An Airman from Hill Force Base is just a few steps closer to realizing his lifelong dream of becoming an Air Force pilot.
Airman 1st Class Hoger Villegas Gaona, from the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight in the 75th Medical Group, was recently accepted into Officer Training School and also selected to the Air Force’s pilot training program.
“Getting accepted into the program is a huge accomplishment, but there are still a lot of steps that must be taken,” said Villegas Gaona. “I am staying optimistic and continue to do everything I can to make things fall into place.”
It was actually a long road for Villegas Gaona to get to this point. He first dreamed of being a pilot as a young boy growing up in Mexico watching planes fly with his father from the small airfield near his home. He and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old to Lindale, Texas.
After graduating high school, he did not have enough money to go to college so he worked to save up for the first year; then continued to work his way through college, which took seven years.
He initially went to community college to earn his associate’s degree in engineering and a certificate in computer aided drafting and design before transferring to the University of Texas at Arlington where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering in 2015.
During that time of working and attending school, he married his wife of five years, Samantha.
Villegas Gaona enlisted in the Air Force in 2016 with the intention of earning an officer commission.
Even though he had a college degree, he still had another goal to work through – obtaining his U.S. citizenship. Enlisting was the gate to earn that step.
Besides a college degree and recommendations from his commander, an Airman must also be a U.S. citizen to meet the basic requirements to apply for Officer Training School.
Once he became a citizen, Villegas Gaona worked on his package for OTS and the pilot program. He not only had to pass physical and mental screening but also pass the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test and the Test of Basic and Aviation Skills to generate a Pilot Selection Candidate Method score.
He said the test was challenging, but his training and skills in his degree and giving 100 percent as an Airman helped him through.
“Discipline and determination are key factors in the success of an individual. Being the best at everything I do has allowed me to reach every step that I have,” he said. “Without working hard every day and at everything that gets thrown our way, I wouldn’t have gained the support from supervisors and my entire chain of command.”
“I am excited that he was accepted into the pilot training program,” said Master Sgt. Mark Medonis, Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight chief and Villegas Gaona’s supervisor. “Yes, we are losing a great Airman, but he gets to follow his dreams. Airman Villegas is going to channel his motivation and passion to become one of the best Air Force pilots.”
In order to become an Air Force pilot, there are still a few steps Villegas Gaona must take. Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., is a challenging nine-week program where Villegas Gaona will get the training and skills to be an Air Force officer, representing the Air Force core values to become a world-class leader.
He will then move onto Introductory Flight Training for two months in Colorado where he will earn 25 hours of hands-on flying. After Colorado, he will attend Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training for 54 weeks. Then he will follow one of four advanced training tracks based on his class standing and learn how to fly a specific type of aircraft, which could take 6-12 months depending on the aircraft.
Villegas Gaona said he would love to come back to Hill and fly the F-35s, but ultimately he has an even loftier goal.
“I have always had a fascination for anything that flies as well as how things work,” he said. “I joined the Air Force because I want to fly the latest and greatest aircraft in the world and help the Air Force develop that technology. I want to become a test pilot and eventually apply for the opportunity to become an astronaut.”
He continued, “It would be an honor to help advance our knowledge of our beginnings, as well as help, develop new technology and medicines. Also, by looking at pictures taken from space, I must say there is no better view.”