KOSOVO — "Hammer 26 is official."
That was the text message Capt. Tyler Moulder sent to his father, with a picture of the logbook entry, after he received his official callsign as a pilot in command, or PC.
Moulder earned his designation while deployed, like his father, retired Maj. E. Dennis Moulder did when he was deployed in Vietnam from 1972 to 1973. Many people join the Army to keep the family tradition of service going. For Moulder, of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st of the 131st Aviation Regiment, Alabama Army National Guard, it meant following in his father’s footsteps, or in this case, the pilot seat.
“My Dad’s a Vietnam era Huey [helicopter] pilot, so that was the way I was raised; off of those stories and all the fun, interesting and wild things that the Vietnam era pilots got into,” Moulder said.
Their family has a history of flying, with Moulder’s father was the first, and his brother was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot for the Army as well before switching over to the Coast Guard.
By becoming a PC, a pilot is allowed to choose their call sign. Typically, in the Army, it is the unit’s organization call sign, and then a number designation that is chosen by the PC.
“My father was Bulldog 26 in Vietnam, so I am Hammer 26,” Moulder said.
The Task Force is currently known as Task Force Yellow Hammer, but upon transitioning back to the states, Moulder’s call sign will be Champion 26. Moulder said his father is the greatest man he knows and he feels honored to continue the legacy while conducting operations in Kosovo, albeit they are not as dangerous as the ones his father flew in Vietnam.
“He’s got a good story about trying to deliver water up to an outpost, slinging water buffalos (wheeled water containers). Our mission a few weeks ago, slinging loaded pallets of water, I was flying that, so it’s just very cool parallels and it just really makes me smile,” Moulder said.
Achieving the designation of PC means Moulder is the final decision maker for the aircraft.
“They’re the ones that the command has placed faith in when things go wrong, or even when they go right. They make the decision, and they make the right decision,” Moulder said.
Pilots are not typically looked at for PC until they reach the 500 flight-hour mark and have gained that experience. The pilot’s maturity is also considered in the decision-making process. The training includes a series of check rides and progressions to see what the pilot would do in certain situations, and ultimately, bring the crew and passengers home alive.
“I’m very honored and very blessed that the command and all the senior pilots in the organization have that level of faith in me, to go out there and take some of these younger guys and gals in the aircraft and put that faith in me to bring them back,” Moulder said.
Moulder took an interesting route to becoming a pilot. He began his career after graduating from Marion Military Institute’s early commissioning program in Alabama, but was unbranched for several years as a lieutenant.
“I kind of had to go into a holding pattern until I could board and get a flight school date, so I was actually a chemical officer prior to going to flight school,” Moulder said.
Serving for three years as the battalion chemical officer for the 131st, he worked in the operations staff, learning everything he could about the aviation community. In January of 2017, Moulder began flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
“I got to fly the OH-58 [Kiowa helicopter] which is really the only aircraft still in the army inventory that my father was rated in, so that was pretty neat, and then went into the Black Hawk course” Moulder said.
He returned to the unit in February of 2018 and served as a flight company platoon leader for nine months before moving to various positions in the battalion before being selected for an Active Guard Reserve slot in the logistic operations.
For anyone who wants to get into aviation he encourages them to just dive right in. Despite all the learning and the time commitment, Moulder says it is all worth it to be able to fly.
“It’s my dream. It’s always been my dream, so every opportunity I get to get in an aircraft, just makes everything else in the world okay,” Moulder said.