AFROTC, Ambassador, and Aviation – Avery Bush Accelerates Toward a Career in the Air Force

WMU Aviation Flight Science and AFROTC Student Avery Bush
Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Aviation Flight Science student Avery Bush visiting the Federal Aviation Administration on a trip to Washington, D.C.

Otsego High School, from which Avery Bush graduated in 2020, is not exactly a molten-lava hotbed of passion for youthful aviation enthusiasts. 

But if your dad was part of the administrative team that kept the Navy's Blue Angels airborne in their precision flights, there's a career pathway for you leading out of the small community located about 15 miles northwest of Western's home campus in Kalamazoo. 

And that route is a tad off the beaten path that most aviation flight science majors at the WMU College of Aviation take as they head for the skies.  Instead of United, Delta, American or any other private enterprise, Bush intends to fly for Uncle Sam's airlines -- the U. S.  Air Force. 

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Bush during his AFROTC training in MSU, doing "Grass and Gorillas"

Bush, now a senior, joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) almost as soon as he stepped on the Western campus, admittedly not knowing where it all could lead.  "It seemed like something fun to try," he says.  His was a quick decision to stick it out.  And a good one.  "I have been given so many opportunities with the Air Force over the last three-plus years that I would not have been able to get anywhere else." 

Because the AFROTC program operates out of Michigan State University, each Thursday he and his fellow WMU cadets travel to East Lansing for their training sessions and labs.  It's a 90-minute drive and not yet a quick flight for the future Air Force officers.   

The curriculum includes deep perspectives into the U.S. military and its history, physical-fitness activities, and comprehensive leadership instructions.  Then comes field training -- for Bush that was a two-week stint at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., where he was tested on all aspects of what he was exposed to during his first two-years in the program. 

Now in the second half of the ROTC program, Bush is engaged in a targeted curriculum designed to prepare him to be an officer in the Air Force or Space Force.  "You take the lessons learned during those first two years and apply them to jobs -- ranging far and wide -- assigned to you each semester," he explains.   

He's been an "events officer," planning and coordinating up to 10 during a semester, and the "operations group commander" overseeing training activities.  Part of his routine schedule is a three-hour class exploring how the Air Force works -- the nitty-gritty stuff such as how personnel are paid, the service's organization, and U.S. laws governing the military. 

Bush in front of a T-38 at Joint Base San Antonio - Randolph

There's been "fun stuff" as well, such as the benefits and activities springing from membership in the Arnold Air Society, the Air Force's version of a professional honors group that focuses on volunteerism and personal development.  Formed in the summer of 1947, it is named for Henry "Hap" Arnold, the Air Force's only five-star general. 

AFROTC Detachment 380's Fall Semester 2023 Wing Staff

Each football season, Bush and fellow ROTC'ers from around the state converge on MSU's Spartan Stadium to roll out an American flag that is 30 yards long and the width of the field for the playing of the national anthem.  At Selfridge Air National Guard Base, he's gotten up close and personal with A-10 Thunderbird IIs (referred to as "The Warthog") and KC-135s (the Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tanker).  He's conversed with the pilots who flew them, and the maintenance crews that kept them airborne. 

This past fall found Bush at the Air Force's base in San Antonio, Texas, where the fundamentals of aerial combat are taught.  He flew a T-38, the supersonic jet trainer.  "That was the coolest thing I have been able to do," he says, "and it cemented that I was going down the right path in life.  We pulled up to 6 Gs and did incredible flight maneuvers while 'battling' with other T-38s." 

And that wasn't the only perk.  "I met F-22, F-16 and F-15 pilots," Bush says.  "They were awesome and showed me what it was like to be a part of a fighter squadron.  I got to be fully fitted with a 'G suit,' harness and helmet and instructed on how to eject in an emergency.  It's an experience I will never forget." 

Bush's Arnold Society activities have placed him in several leadership roles including vice commander of a the squadron at Michigan State, while also being the Director of Joint Relations for the region, coordinating with other organizations such as veterans and student groups.  He's attended the group's conferences at Ohio State, Purdue and Las Vegas (this past spring).  At the latter five-day event attended by all members of his squadron, he listened to the perspectives of a panel of Vietnam War veterans, the viewpoints of Gen. John W. Raymond, the Space Force's first No. 1, and insights from Gen. Mark D. Kelly, who guides the service's Air Combat Command. 

The Arnold Air Society is much like a professional fraternity -- one based on the national mission of protecting the country's freedom. "I've crossed paths with some of the smartest and most dedicated people I have ever met because of this program," he says.  "They are the kind of best friends you don't make every day.  These are bonds that will survive, even if we end up stationed at opposite places on the planet in the future." 

Bush and other Arnold Air Society members at NATCON with (Ret) Gen. John W. Raymond, First Chief of the Space Force

Sounds like Bush has had a full plate during his college years, but there is more.  Since the summer before his sophomore year, he's served as a student ambassador for Western.  "Because of the campus tours I guided," he says about polishing his leadership skills, "I have expanded my knowledge about the university and improved my public-speaking ability.  I have learned to articulate different ideas to people with a variety of backgrounds."  It's a two-way street, he says, because he's been able to gain so much "fantastic information" and awareness by talking to prospective students, their families and members of the Western staff. 

The latter stemmed from his manning the front desk in the Seibert administration building as an ambassador.  "I always had a 'question of the day' I would ask," he says.  "That would spark a conversation that allowed me to hear some really cool things from really cool people throughout the university." 

Now those duties along with the others would round out his week, right?  Not quite.  How about an internship with Unifi Aviation, the largest ground-handling service in North America, at its Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport operations.  Working the ramp for Delta Connection flights coming into Kalamazoo, Bush says "I really loved it because it gave me a unique perspective about aviation that most students don't get to experience.  I got to see how airlines operate from the ground level, how weight and balance works, how fueling works," and all kinds of under-the-radar details. 

At Ohio State University for RCON with Brigadier Gen. Houston R. Cantwell Holm Center Commander

And, of course, there were the "hard jobs," the mundane chores that passengers take for granted -- loading and unloading suitcases and golf clubs, starting the engines, hooking up power sources, and -- when necessary -- de-icing the planes, which was one of Bush's favorites.  A bonus was the chance to take Delta Connection day trips to destinations such as St. Louis, Atlanta and Washington.  Nothing like an early flight to the capital's city, walking the National Mall, visiting the fabulous museums, checking out the famous monuments, and hopping on a flight back to Kalamazoo at sunset -- in time for chores the next morning. 

Bush was something of a rare bird at Otsego High.  While he was not aware of any of his peers casting an eye toward aviation, that leaning came from his father, Jonathan Bush, a professor of English at Western and a former chair of the department.  The senior Bush's background included serving as a public affairs officer in the Navy Reserves -- hence his son's eventual connection to military service. 

"I really didn't do anything related to aviation during high school," Avery says.  With diploma in hand, he started working on his private pilot's license at the Holland airport, taking his written exam the day before he moved into his Western dorm.   A month later, he took his "checkride" and received his private license. 

Being around Western his whole life because of "Dad," the choice for higher education became fairly easy, especially when the lights went on regarding an aviation career and WMU being the home of one of the nation's best and largest programs.  He did take a gander at what Purdue and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University had to offer.   

WMU Admission Ambassador office after their end of the year banquet

The top selling point, according to Bush, is that "WMU is not solely an aviation school.  Yes, the program is one of the best, but the university is not centered around it.  We have a ton of other majors.  At Western, I have the chance to meet people from so many different areas.  I have friendships with people with all kinds of interests, not just aviation."  WMU's AFROTC linkage didn't hurt either. 

Avery's "Be Real" moment with WMU President Ed Montgomery

Exemplifying that is his choice of a favorite non-aviation class -- in American military history.  "I love history and I'm joining the military," he says, "so I was really cool to go in depth as to what we have done in the past, both good and bad, and to gain perspectives on what happened and why it happened.  The course was super engaging and was linked to what is currently going on." 

Closer to his major was lead flight instructor Pat Langworthy's course in "commercial theory 2."   "It was challenging," he says, "but I gained so much and I continue to use what I learned.  The lessons and 'small things' are still with me." 

As Bush advances toward being commissioned as a second lieutenant in "the world's greatest air force," he will take with him warm memories of the institution that has helped propel him to the "dream job" of being an Air Force pilot.  "It's Western's people," he says.  "There are so many awesome people here, both in the College of Aviation and throughout the university.  Whenever I walk the campus, I am almost guaranteed to run into somebody I know."  

And thanks to his days at Western and his ROTC connections, he'll know a few folks out there when he is wearing his Air Force "uni."