FORT HOOD, Texas - More than three decades ago, 12-year-old Wayne Turner had a dream of one day becoming an aviator. Now, after more than nine years and four back-to-back deployments with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, Turner is finally hanging up his flight suit.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wayne Turner, an AH-64D Attack Pilot with Company B., 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Combat Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted the last flight operation of his 20-year military career Feb. 28, here.
Although Turner always knew his true passion was to fly, he didn't have the opportunity to when first entering the Army, he said.
"I enlisted in the delayed entry program July 1992 as a Working Dog Handler with the (Military Police)," the Marietta, Ga., native said. "I enjoyed that job; however, I always wanted to be a Delta pilot. My dad was a flight instructor, and he took me up for my first flight when I was 12. After that, I was hooked forever."
It was through hard work and persistence that Turner was able to break into the aviation field, he said.
"My commander at the time saw the potential and passion within me," Turner said. "She introduced me to her husband who was a pilot and it was him who got me in touch with a senior warrant officer who mentored me and assisted me in putting in my packet."
After graduating flight school in 2000, Turner was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. with Renegade Troop, 4th Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, and then at Camp Eagle, Korea with B Troop, 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.
In April 2004, Turner was finally sent to 1st ACB, where he ended up fitting right in with his fellow battle buddies, he said.
"The time I've spent with this unit has been great," he said. "The camaraderie within the unit is amazing. We truly are a band of brothers here."
During his time with the unit, Turner went on to deploy three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan where he flew countless hours in support of four different campaigns.
"Every deployment brought something different to the table, but we always were successful," Turner said. "I remember flying more than 12 hours over Sadr City, Iraq in the summer of 2004, all the while encountering multiple engagements. The missions where we helped soldiers on the ground always meant the most to me. I knew we were making a difference."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Carl Fox, an AH-64D Attack Pilot with Co. B, 1-227 Avn. Regt., 1st ACB, worked side-by-side with Turner for the better part of a decade, Fox said.
"We've worked together for at least six years, and we've knew each other longer than that," the Huntington, W.Va. native said. "We had the opportunity to fly together over the Iraqi elections ballot boxes at night in order to secure their elections during our 2009 - 2010 deployment. "
Despite battling a difficult operational environment in Iraq, Fox said Turner helped to keep esprit de corps high within the unit.
"He has a great sense of humor, and when you start flying for six to eight hours, jokes and stories are imperative," Fox explained. "He always knew how to put levity in a serious situation. It's because of individuals like him that we still have an extremely tight group. There's no doubt in my mind 1-227 is a battalion of heroes, and Turner has been an important part of that."
Reflecting on the past 10 years brings back many fond memories and emotions, Turner said. But it's the fellow soldiers he is going to miss the most upon leaving the force later this month.
"It's bittersweet," he said. "I'm going to miss the camaraderie and the soldiers I've met throughout the years. I plan on maintaining my residence in Austin, where I will relax and continue to stay in the aviation industry as a consultant for industries."