Alum soars as U.S. Air Force pilot

Capt. Michael “Strut” Blahut
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, ’11; Air Force ROTC, Community & Technical College

Air Force Capt. Michael Blahut, is a UAA alumnus and an F-22 Raptor pilot assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)
Air Force Capt. Michael Blahut, is a UAA alumnus and an
F-22 Raptor pilot assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)
On a good day, you’ll find Capt. Michael Blahut strapping into an F-22 Raptor, the U.S. Air Force’s most advanced fighter plane, and taking to the skies above Alaska. It’s a dream he’s held since the day he first met a fighter pilot in 2001 and that started to become a reality at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I attended UAA because I love Alaska,” says Blahut. “There’s no other way to put it. It’s the only place I want to live.”

The fact that UAA had an Air Force ROTC program made becoming a Seawolf an easy choice. ROTC prepares men and women to become leaders in the Air Force through academics, field training and continuous leadership development. Blahut was a natural, becoming one of only two cadets in the detachment’s history to earn a 4.0 GPA, a perfect physical fitness score and recognition as a distinguished graduate from Air Force field training.

Of course, living on the Last Frontier could make even the most basic maneuvers a challenge at times. Blahut recalls marching fellow cadets outside in weather so cold it made his shoes crack.

“I was so proud of the cadets,” he recalls. “I hadn’t heard one peep out of them!”

UAA and ROTC also provided Blahut with lifelong friendships.

“I stay in touch with another alumni, Cody Vandergriff,” says Blahut. “We were in the same class and he’s now a Raptor driver as well.”

After earning his degree in mechanical engineering from UAA, Blahut was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. He attended a series of intense flight training schools that culminated in a year-long course at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, learning to fly the F-22 Raptor. Following graduation, Blahut was assigned to the Bulldogs of the 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.

Air Force Capt. Michael Blahut gives a thumb-up to his crew chief  before a flight at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)
Air Force Capt. Michael Blahut gives a thumb-up to his crew
chief  before a flight at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)
“I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” says Blahut with a smile.

Blahut views his time at UAA as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live out his dream. Without a degree there could be no commission, no pilot training. When asked if he has any advice to share, this high-flying Seawolf cautions current students to think twice about short-term decisions that may derail their long-term dreams.

“There are tough times at college, in ROTC. I get it,” he said. “Trust me when I tell you, whatever it is, it’s only temporary, and nothing lasts forever. Make the best of it, maximize your potential, and do the very best you can.”

Pretty sound advice from a man who followed his dreams and returned north to his future.

Visit www.uaa.alaska.edu/afrotc to learn more about UAA’s Air Force ROTC program.

Story by Lt. Col. Matthew Beer, Air Force ROTC Commander and Professor of Aerospace Studies
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Alum soars as U.S. Air Force pilot
Alum soars as U.S. Air Force pilot
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