DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. --
If Chief Master Sgt. Terry Studstill took all of his flight hours and flew them in one trip, it would last approximately one year, one month and 21 days.
Studstill, 700th Airlift Squadron flight engineer superintendent, completed 10,000 flight hours this past weekend on a C-130H3 Hercules bound for Key West, Florida.
“When I started flying as a helicopter flight engineer, the max we flew was around two-and-a-half hours,” Studstill said. “After seven-and-a-half years, I had only flown a little bit more than 1,400 hours. I had no idea I’d ever make it to 10,000 hours.”
Chief also discussed the unique aspects of his particular journey to 10,000 hours as a result of the types of aircraft he’s flown on. For example, in the strategic airlift world of KC-10s, C-5s, and C-17s, aircrew members reach 10,000 hours more regularly, he explained.
“Being a helicopter and a C-130 guy, it’s very rare that crewmembers reach 10,000 hours,” Studstill said.
In 2011, he reached 8,000 hours during a deployment with the 440th Airlift Wing. Since then, it has taken him eight years to obtain the remaining 2,000 hours.
This is a significant accomplishment in an aviator’s career, and one that doesn’t come easily.
“This is a monumental accomplishment,” said Col. Patrick Campbell, 94th Operations Group commander. “Very few Air Force aviators will ever meet this milestone. This is a reflection of Chief’s dedication and commitment to our country and to the U.S. Air Force. I can honestly say that I have not met anyone more passionate about our Airmen and our mission than Chief Studstill.”
It’s fitting that Studstill would reach such a lofty career milestone; he’s widely known around base as an “old-school” chief. He holds his Airmen to a high standard and readily provides guidance along the way. He’s the type of chief who will reprimand you for calling him “sir.” Last year a loadmaster even dressed up as Studstill for the Falcon 5K, donning his trademark mustache and flight suit.
“I always to try to treat everyone fairly,” said Chief. “To me, it’s the right thing to do. Treat each Airmen in your section equally across the board.”
He also credits the work of the aircraft maintainers as playing a crucial role in keeping the aircraft airworthy so that he could reach 10,000 hours of flying.
“Reaching 10,000 hours is impossible without maintenance,” said Chief. “Whether it’s back shop maintenance or line maintenance, I wouldn’t fly at all. I attribute this accomplishment to every maintenance organization I’ve ever worked with, because without them I never would have attained 10,000 hours.”
Throughout his 37-year career, he’s served as both a rotary-wing and fixed-wing flight engineer. He began his career on the MH-60G in 1987, and went on to fly AC-130, HC-130, MC-130 and WC-130, before landing at Dobbins in 2000. He has flown on the C-130H Hercules ever since.
“Those 10,000 hours include combat, aeromedical evacuation, humanitarian relief, higher headquarters taskings, routine training and instructional sorties,” said Campbell. “He has done it all. Indeed, we are all fortunate to be serving with a true American hero.”
“I enjoyed the mission of the MH-60G,” said Chief. “I liked the low-flying in the helicopter and also the customers we supported: Army Rangers, Delta Force, Green Berets, Air Force Pararescuemen, combat controllers. Also being able to do hoist missions and shooting the guns off the helicopter as a defensive weapon to protect the aircraft.”
He’ll continue to fly the rest of the year, but he now has his sights set on retiring in early 2020.
Studstill plans to settle down in his wife’s hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, where he hopes to use his degree in education to teach part-time.
He said it’ll be difficult to leave behind his wingmen and said he’ll miss the camaraderie, but he’s looking forward to beginning the next chapter in his life and taking a shot at reaching new milestones in the classroom.
“What I’ll miss the most is the camaraderie and the friendship I’ve gained over the years in active duty and the Reserve,” said Studstill. “A fellow flight engineer from a unit I was in back in 1987 is coming to my retirement ceremony. I’ve kept in touch with him over the years. Having friendships from that far back – more than 32 years ago – and being able to stay friends and keep in touch is certainly a great part of being in the military.”
When asked if he’ll aim for 10,000 hours in the classroom, he replied with a smile, “probably not.”