27 March 2009

Amputee Pilot Completes Third Deployment

Maj. Alan Brown, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, is a amputee C-130 pilot deployed from the 187th Air Lift Squadron, Wyoming Air National Guard, Cheyenne, Wyo. Major Brown had lost his leg in a hunting accident 10 years ago, before the accident had been flying for five years. It took Major Brown seven years to regain his flying qualifications but before he could get back into the cockpit, he had to do a testimonial flight to make sure he was not a liability. He is finishing up his third deployment since the accident. Photo by Senior Airman Erik Cardenas.

Before the hunting accident Major Brown had been flying for almost five years. It took another seven to get back in the saddle with the military.

"In my mind I need to be deployed with my buddies. We've been training and flying together for years. It's not an option to stay home while they're here taking on the mission," the major said. "Flying is in my blood. It's what I do. And besides, I believe in what we're doing in Afghanistan."

He admits flying is different with a prosthetic.

"As a pilot, using your feet is second nature," he said. "I just had to learn how to operate in a different way after the accident."

The one thing the major is reluctant to talk about is how he's helped others in his situation. He takes every opportunity to encourage other amputees there is life after a lost limb.

"This isn't about me and what I've accomplished. I made a big mistake. There's no one to blame for this but me and I don't want to stand out," Major Brown said. "Being comfortable with my situation gives me a chance to answer questions other amputees may have on what they'll face."

On a recent trip to Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C., he visited many veterans facing the future without a limb.

"I just wanted to answer any questions they had," he said. "Coming home and not knowing what the future holds can be overwhelming."

He emphasized how impressive it is that the military has taken a wider approach with amputees in light of the recent increase in those losing limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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