Faces From the Front for October 11, 2010 - Lt. Col. Richard Gulley
Current Unit: Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan
Current Position: Aviation Officer
Current Location: Afghanistan
Hometown: Beaverton, Ore.
Years of Service: 23
Lt. Col. Richard Gulley graduated from Oregon State University’s ROTC program in 1987. After accepting his commission, the young officer set his sights on becoming a pilot. The aspiration came from his interest in the power and sophistication of the Army’s combat aircraft.
“In the beginning of my career, I flew attack helicopters, which are very complex aircraft. The complexity of the attack helicopter mission is what pulled me to it,” Gulley explained. “When I was younger, I preferred flying helicopters, now I truly enjoy flying airliners. I believe I got the best of both worlds with my experience.”
Trained by the Army Reserve’s best, Gulley chose to try his hand at flying fixed wing aircraft in the private sector for his civilian work. The skills and training he earned as part of the Army Reserve, Gulley says, helped him secure a pilot position with JetBlue.
“The Army’s flight training program is very selective, demanding and highly professional. I owe it to the Army for preparing me to become an airline pilot. The same standards and training the Army taught me are the same standards and training that are upheld by the airlines.”
Now taking some time away from JetBlue to serve his country, Gulley is currently deployed as the aviation officer for Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A). In this role, Gulley is responsible for advising the CJSOTF-A commander on the use of any aviation personnel or aircraft needed to carry out missions. Additionally, he oversees the unmanned aerial vehicles used by CJSOTF-A to gather intelligence.
Throughout his tour, Gulley has found that the skills learned at JetBlue have assisted him in his work with CJSOTF-A.
“One of my jobs is to manage five civilian fixed wing aircraft, pilots, and crews,” Gulley said. “My time as an airline pilot helped greatly in understanding and managing the civilian contract pilots and implementing the mix of civilian and military rules and regulations required. Likewise, in a joint environment, one has to manage the cultural differences between the joint services and civilian supporting agencies as they work together.”
Gulley knows how important his work is in helping his fellow Soldiers accomplish their missions.
“The proper management of air power directly shapes the battlefield,” Gulley explained. “Soldiers depend on the support of aviation personnel and aircraft to infiltrate or exfiltrate them from a location or to gain surveillance of the battlefield.”
And Gulley realizes the significance of his Soldiers’ work, having seen first-hand the impact it makes on the Afghan people.
“I went on a mission with a Special Forces Team. The purpose was to meet with a local Afghan leader for a key leader engagement. During the mission I was able to talk to local tribesmen and observe the Special Forces Soldiers interact and work with the elders to ensure they had the support and assistance needed. It provided me a first-hand account of the importance of what our Soldiers are doing here as we assist the Afghan people with stability and security,” Gulley said.
Gulley has enjoyed working with Special Forces Soldiers throughout his deployment and has learned a great deal from them.
“The skills and professionalism of the Special Forces is humbling as they constantly develop innovative ways to accomplish the most difficult tasks. Through my deployment I have learned the amazing depth with which they analyze and conceptualize an idea to ensure a plan is successful when it is implemented. I am lucky to have worked with true professionals and am grateful that I got the opportunity to have learned from each of them. I am a better Soldier due to each of them,” Gulley said.
Moving forward, Gulley will be able to apply the knowledge learned from his work with these Soldiers both in and outside of the Army.
“Special Forces are taught to think outside the box. I will use this thought process at work, as a pilot and flight manager, as well as in my personal life,” Gulley added.
Gulley will return home this week to be present for the birth of his second child. He looks forward to spending time with his wife and plans to catch up on play dates with his five-year-old son. After taking his wife and children to Oregon to spend the holidays with his parents and siblings, Gulley will return to his work with JetBlue.
“JetBlue has been incredible and has gone out of its way to support my family and me,” Gulley said. “When I called to let them know that I was returning to work they went out of their way to ensure a reintegration plan was developed that would ensure a smooth transition for the company and me.”