SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
For Capt. Matt Stein, earning his pilot wings from the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program was not the first time he donned a set of wings.
Prior to arriving for Undergraduate Pilot Training at ENJJPT, Stein was a Special Operations Forces Medical Element flight surgeon for the 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Florida.
After his acceptance to medical school, Stein earned his commission through Commissioned Officer Training, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, where he pinned on the rank of second lieutenant in 2008.
His end goal, however, was always to end up in the cockpit of an aircraft.
“I had always hoped to apply to UPT, even back when I was beginning medical school because I was also a civilian pilot instructing aerobatics,” Stein said. “I wanted to serve in the special operations community for a few years, but ultimately the plan was to become a pilot physician where I could combine both skillsets.”
But Stein’s desire to earn his first set of wings as a flight surgeon was an aspiration that was deeply rooted within.
Taking Flight with Special Operations
In 2003, at the age of 39, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Stein, 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60 Pave Hawk pilot and father of Matt, was killed in action during a deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Because of my father, I grew up around the special operations community and they did a lot to support me after my dad passed away,” Stein said. “Ultimately I wanted to give back to that community, and hoped as a flight surgeon I’d be able to use my medical skills to keep kids back home from going through what I went through.”
It was his father, with his character and example of what it means to be an airman, who inspired Stein to not only join the Air Force, but begin his pursuit of a career as a flight surgeon in the special operations community.
“My dad was an officer, a pilot and a special operations warrior,” Stein said. “He showed me a strong example of dedication, excellence and self-sacrifice—things that define a good operator. He worked hard to instill those in me and I hope some of them stuck. Those principles were what inspired me to pursue a career in the Air Force, and at the time of my choice, a career to serve special operations operators.”
Stein’s decision to pursue flight surgeon wings only faced one problem—financing for medical school.
But the special operations community stepped in with an opportunity for him to overcome that obstacle.
As the child of a fallen operator, Stein was awarded a scholarship from the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which, along with some additional scholarships, helped covered the cost of his education at Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois.
Additional organizations that gave Stein the financial opportunity to attend medical school were Red River Valley Fighter Pilot's Association, That Others May Live Foundation and Jolly Green Association.
“I am extremely grateful to the SOWF and those that helped me get to where I am today,” Stein said. “There are a lot of other kids growing up like I did because of the sacrifices of operators. And that’s really tough to go through. You can’t understand unless you’ve been there and it means a lot and helps a lot to have the SOWF there to assist.”
From Flight Surgeon to Fighter Pilot
As Stein moves forward to his fighter pilot career he is grateful to SOWF, but also Air Force Special Operations Command and the special operations community as a whole for the opportunities.
“I really appreciate AFSOC and the 1 SOW,” Stein said. “It was a meaningful opportunity to serve with them the past few years. To go into combat as immediate medical support for the special ops guys at the tip of the spear was an honor. At times, I was even working with people who had served with my dad.”
Now, with multiple deployments under his belt, over 1,100 civilian flight and instruction hours and four years as a flight surgeon, Stein will continue his military career in the cockpit of an F-16.
After his nine-week Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals course at ENJJPT, Stein will report to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, for his F-16 follow-on course—also known as ‘B’ Course.
Stein’s career aspirations are to be the best fighter pilot he can be and hopefully move into a test pilot slot.
Stein stated that no matter what his career may bring, he will do what it takes to meet the needs of the Air Force honorably with gratitude for the special operations community and driven by the inspiration of his father.