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Father’s influence creates legacy of pilots

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Parker
  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Having a fighter pilot inspire you to join the Air Force is fairly common, but having that inspiration living in the same house adds a different outlook.

Lt. Col. Andrew “Kisser” Kissinger, 39th Flying Training Wing T-6 Texan instructor pilot, understands the pull of the Air Force after watching and admiring his own father’s career in the clouds. 

Kissinger explained that it was at the age of eight when his dad took him to an air show at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas that his dreams of becoming a pilot were cemented.

“At the end of the air show, the Thunderbirds performed in their T-38s,” he said. “Dad told me the maneuvers they were flying were just like the aerobatics he did most days flying. It was such a simple outing, but what a huge impact it had.  I was hooked, and from then on I told everyone I was going to be a pilot.” 

His dad, Col. (ret) Forrest “Dutch” Kissinger, enlisted in the Air Force at 18 years old in 1949 as an aircraft mechanic. He explained that three years later he was given the opportunity to become a pilot during the Korean War when the Air Force needed to surge and grow its pilot population.

“I had to take a test, and if I passed the test they would let me be a pilot," Forrest said. “If I didn’t pass then my enlistment was up, and I would go home. Well, thirty-one years and three months later, I had a great career and retired as a full bird colonel.”

His son, Andrew, would take a different route to becoming a pilot. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, later earning his wings in 1990. He flew the B-52 Stratofortress, logging over 2,000 flight hours. He would separate from active duty in 1998, but has been flying with the Air Force Reserves ever since.  

While their paths to becoming pilots were slightly different, there are some parallels.

Forrest came through pilot-instructor-training at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in 1972 while on his way to Laughlin AFB to be the director of operations. During Andrew’s career, he flew the same T-37s and T-38s that his father flew back in the early 1970’s.

While Andrew said he learned many life-lessons from his father, the most important was simple: never quit.

“Whether I was struggling on the pitching mound as a child, considering quitting the Air Force Academy (the thought crossed my mind nearly every day) or having tough days at pilot training; his motivation to never quit was what enabled me to continue.  I'm teaching my little boy those same things,” he said.

Andrew talked about how his father’s influence has now reached a third generation with his son, Nicholas.

“Nicholas is thirteen, but has started talking about wanting to go to the Air Force Academy,” he said.

Forrest had this advice to give any young person joining the Air Force:

“Do a good job at whatever you’re doing, do your best. We have the greatest Air Force in the world, the best trained people in the world, and the best military,” he said.