SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.- --
First Lt. Eric Aglubat still remembers the day his father brought a special gift from his deployment in South Korea.
“I was around 5 or 6 and my dad came back from Korea with a little model plane,” said Aglubat. “Some kids say they want to be a firefighter or a police officer, but when he brought the plane back, I knew I wanted to be a pilot.”
From that day on, Aglubat set out on the journey to fulfill his dream, earning his commission in the Air Force.
However, he faced an early roadblock when he earned, and then lost a pilot slot during ROTC due to academic challenges.
“I was disappointed. Going active duty, you can still have the chance to receive selection, however it is very difficult,” said Aglubat.
He trained instead as a space Airman - a path that lead him to Schriever as an engineering flight commander with the 4th Space Operations Squadron.
Still, he never lost sight of his dream, earning his civilian pilot’s license in his spare time and retaking the Air Force Officer’s Qualification Test, raising his score and completing other prerequisites. After going up for pilot selection twice before with no success, he was selected on his third and last chance.
It took a moment for the news to sink in when he was informed by his commander, tired from staying up the previous night in anticipation.
“As weird as it sounds, I was too tired to care initially,” said Aglubat. “Then I hung up the phone and it finally sunk in that I was selected. I was shocked, and in disbelief.”
While the Air Force’s recent pilot shortage helped his chances, his selection was thanks largely in part to the collective support of Airmen who helped him tap his motivation to reach success, said Aglubat.
“They’ve shown me the path towards reaching goals through hard work,” he said. “Every supervisor I had was supportive.”
Capt. Michael Ysebaert, a prior 4 SOPS Airman who worked in the engineering flight, knew early on of Aglubat’s determination.
“It was pretty clear that (being a pilot) was his dream,” said Ysebaert. “He was a highly motivated Lieutenant, he knew what he wanted and what his goals were. I wasn’t going to stand in his way.”
Although Aglubat is excited about reaching one of his main goals through his selection, it only opens the gateway to the training ahead -- a process that will be anything but easy, he said.
“Getting selected is the absolute first step,” said Aglubat. “Everyone I’ve talked to who has gone through the training has said it is pretty difficult. You need to focus completely on being a pilot -- minimize distractions; focus on the end goal; so I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Ysebaert is certain Aglubat will excel in the pilot career just as much as he excelled as part of 4 SOPS.
“I know he will be successful,” he said. “He was put in a very technical position at 4 SOPS and it didn’t take long for him to pick it up. He was one of the top performers. I don’t think it will matter what plane he flies, I’m sure he will find success.”
Reflecting on the past that led up to the promising future ahead, Aglubat said one of the most important lessons he learned from his experience is to never give up on your dreams.
“Anyone out there who’s pursuing their dream, it all starts with doing right with the people you work with, controlling what you can control and working hard,” said Aglubat. “In my situation, hard work really did pay off.”
Aglubat said he has come a long way from the fateful day a model plane ignited a lifelong aspiration.
“I hope I serve as a source of inspiration for anyone wishing to pursue their aspirations,” he said.