From fixing choppers to flying them
June 22, 2012
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Sergeant Sean Metzger, an avionics and armament technician from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, was welcomed into a distinguished community of professionals in a ceremony, June 14, when he became the newest member of the Army's Noncommissioned Officer Corps. After three years of hard work and dedication to duty, his supervisors saw fit to bring him into the fold.
But, after less than two weeks as a noncommissioned officer, he attempts to make the leap into another rank structure when he becomes Warrant Officer Candidate Sgt. Metzger.
His enrollment comes after a competitive cycle in which only 20-25 percent of applicants were accepted into the program, putting the young specialist applicant in an elite group of Soldiers after only a short time. But it's all part of the plan to become a helicopter pilot, said Sgt. Metzger, who joined the Army in 2008 after graduating from Westwood College of Denver, Colo.
"I've always had a fascination with helicopters because of the way they just deny physics," Sgt. Metzger said. "When I went into my recruiter's office, I said, 'What do I need to do to fly?' That's been my goal ever since I came in."
Flying was far from his mind back in 2008, the year Sgt. Metzger graduated with a degree in computer science. More pressing material concerns were at the front of his and the nation's mind as the housing crisis unfolded. Sergeant Metzger said Denver was hit hard in the fallout and the resulting economy was sparse on jobs, even in previously lucrative sectors like technology. With the job market in a straitjacket and his personal finances similarly constrained, Sgt. Metzger turned to the Army.
Sergeant Metzger said he'd flirted with enlisting in the National Guard after high school, but was talked out of it by his uncle, Command Sgt. Maj. Herbert Kirkover, currently the command sergeant major of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division. Sergeant Metzger had been harboring dreams of piloting throughout high school, and he said Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Kirkover's counsel was important because of how he had always admired his uncle's military bearing.
"I had a lot of respect for him, even as a young kid," Sgt. Metzger said. "Whenever he came around, he just had a way about him and you could tell he was different from most people."
With his uncle's advice, he enlisted active duty as an aviation technician and received his first assignment at Fort Stewart with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID. His aviation career stalled for awhile there, as his projected job working with unmanned aerial vehicles was filled with Soldiers of a brand new military occupational specialty. Sergeant Metzger said he spoke with his branch manager and was rerouted to the 3rd CAB's 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, rear detachment during the CAB's last Afghanistan deployment.
He was later selected at brigade headquarters as a driver for then brigade Command Sgt. Major Richard Stidley. After the change of responsibility, he continued as current brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Blair's driver, and has since become the driver for brigade commander Col. Allan Pepin.
Though he enjoyed his driver's duties, Sgt. Metzger said he never lost sight of his goal: becoming an Army Aviator.
With Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Ala., coming soon, Sgt. Metzger said any nerves he has are outweighed by the excitement of fulfilling his dream.
"I know I'm ready physically, I know I'm ready mentally," Sgt. Metzger said. "It's just the unknown factor that always gets you. I'm just ready to get onto the next challenge."
For Sgt. Metzger, a big part of that challenge will be readjusting to the classroom environment. Warrant Officer Candidate School is split into two phases over six weeks' time culminating in a field leadership exercise drawing heavily on recent lessons learned from America's ongoing overseas conflicts, according to the school website. Upon graduation, Sgt. Metzger would receive the rank of Warrant Officer 1 and continue to the Warrant Officer Basic Course in Aviation, also at Fort Rucker.
With his aviation dream in front of him, Sgt. Metzger said he wants to take things a day at a time and not get too caught up in future plans.
"It's been a great experience so far," Sgt. Metzger said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better. It hasn't been the most typical Army experience, but that's usually how I roll."