'Part of a team': Corsaro family father and son share Army Aviation legacy

By Kelly MorrisJanuary 21, 2024

2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro, a flight school student, is joined by his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, and his mother Suk, on the flightline at Fort Novosel, Ala. (Photo courtesy of the Corsaro family)
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro, a flight school student, is joined by his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, and his mother Suk, on the flightline at Fort Novosel, Ala. (Photo courtesy of the Corsaro family) (Photo Credit: Kelly Morris) VIEW ORIGINAL
2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro, a flight school student, and his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, stand in front of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence headquarters building Dec. 19, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris)
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro, a flight school student, and his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, stand in front of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence headquarters building Dec. 19, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris) (Photo Credit: Kelly Morris) VIEW ORIGINAL
2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro listens as his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, speaks to his flight school class about Aviation heritage and being part of something greater than themselves at Fort Novosel, Ala., Nov. 6, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris)
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro listens as his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, speaks to his flight school class about Aviation heritage and being part of something greater than themselves at Fort Novosel, Ala., Nov. 6, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris) (Photo Credit: Kelly Morris) VIEW ORIGINAL
2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro, a flight school student, and his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, stand in front of an aircraft display at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence headquarters building Dec. 19, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris)
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro, a flight school student, and his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, stand in front of an aircraft display at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence headquarters building Dec. 19, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris) (Photo Credit: Kelly Morris) VIEW ORIGINAL
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, speaks to a group of flight school students about their Aviation heritage and being part of something greater than themselves at Fort Novosel, Ala.,  Nov. 6, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris)
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch, speaks to a group of flight school students about their Aviation heritage and being part of something greater than themselves at Fort Novosel, Ala., Nov. 6, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Kelly Morris) (Photo Credit: Kelly Morris) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT NOVOSEL, Ala. — 2nd Lt. Jacob M. Corsaro remembers the day a West Point graduate visited his school and said something that made him want to join the Army.

“She said ‘in the Army you’re always going to be working as part of a team’,” Jacob said. “I always liked working as part of a team. I like people, I like being around others, I like working with others. If you’re in the Army and you’re part of a team you’re never alone. No one likes to be alone.”

However, it was because of influences a little closer to home that Jacob, a graduate of the United States Military Academy-West Point, now finds himself in flight school at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence where his father, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael A. Corsaro, an Apache helicopter pilot, currently serves as the chief warrant officer of the Aviation branch.

In fact, Jacob's earliest memory of his dad was a redeployment: at 4 a.m. the Soldiers had just deplaned and mustered in front of the hangar. Jacob was among the crowd of family members waiting inside to welcome their Soldiers home.

Though very young, he remembers the hangar doors opening, and a man peeking his head inside for a moment to see if it was time for them to enter yet.

“‘That’s your dad’,” Jacob heard his mother say.

It was the second of his father Michael’s seven career deployments as Jacob and his brother were growing up.

On Michael’s first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I, Michael and Suk, a former Army officer and registered nurse, were relentlessly focused on growing a cohesive Team Corsaro. While deployed, Michael would record his voice reading children’s stories.

“I would sit up at Al Asad on the roof and read these little bedtime stories into the tape. I would send them back so Suk could play them, so they could know my voice, because we didn’t have phones. We waited in line for four and a half hours for a five-minute satellite phone call,” he said.

Early on, Suk and Michael both served in uniform at the same time. As they started a family, they eventually decided on an arrangement where one of them would work and the other focus primarily on the home, and they each took turns in those roles.

After three decades of service, Michael had his sights set on retirement. That is, until the previous branch chief warrant officer approached him about putting in his application to take his place.

“I remember in the interview Maj. Gen. McCurry asked me if I wanted to retire and I said, Sir, I’ve been in the Army for 30 years, I’ve been thinking about retirement for the last 13,” Michael said.

“But it wasn’t my time yet,” he said. “That’s why I’m all in. If you’re going to be all you can be, you’ve got to be all in,” he said.

Shortly after Michael assumed responsibility last summer, his son arrived for flight school, which means the Corsaro family once again has two members in uniform at the same time at the same place — only this time the two on active duty are both focused on aviation.

Whereas Michael grew up “playing Army” with a garage full of Vietnam era gear to play with and was hooked on aviation after his brother took him for a civilian airplane ride, Jacob was initially interested in pursuing a path in engineering.

“At first I didn’t want to do aviation because I didn’t want to follow in my dad’s footsteps, I wanted to go make my own path, but then I realized it’s not too bad to follow in my dad’s footsteps because he’s a pretty cool guy. Don’t tell him I said that,” Jacob said, smiling.

Jacob said he feels grateful for the times his dad has been there for him over the years.

“Throughout key points of my life he would always make time for me. Whether he had to run away from a meeting so he could go to a band concert that I forgot to tell him about, or just being there on a weekend to take me to go out and do something,” he said.

“For his deployments, as he went through many, I have key memories of when he left and when he came back, and those memories I will always carry with me,” he said.

Jacob said he never felt pressured to serve.

“Dad has always tried not to influence me on what I wanted to do. He wanted me to pick my own path,” Jacob said. “He never tried to force Army on me. Even when I said I think I might want to go to West Point, he said, ‘OK’.”

Jacob’s aptitude for aviation comes as no surprise to his dad.

“I remember one time I brought him into the Apache (Longbow Crew Trainer). Within a two-hour period … (he was) hovering, doing diving rockets, flying and literally landing the helicopter for roll-on landings,” Michael said.

“I said to myself, I’m not that good. He is. He wasn’t interested in the Army at that point, I just knew that he would be a great pilot one day,” Michael said.

Jacob, said completing the U.S. Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School was probably his first big obstacle since arriving at Fort Novosel. Currently in the common core phase of flight training, he is realizing the importance of a go-getter attitude.

“You’ve got to be a cut higher than others to make it here,” he said. “If something goes wrong on the aircraft you can’t sit there and panic and have a second to think, otherwise you’re going to hit the ground before you figure out your solution. You’ve got to be able to adapt and go.”

For him, each day of flight school is the next big challenge.

“I came in today just as ready as I did for the checkride,” he said. “Every day I want to improve myself a little bit more so that one day I can be the pilot in command, one day I can be the rated aviator that’s really good at his job.”

He said he is grateful his father is close by, sometimes even getting to watch from the sidelines, including when Jacob recently soloed in the UH-72A Lakota helicopter.

“That was a huge moment,” Jacob said. “It’s nice to be able to have him here, and then the fact that that’s he’s also aviation and a rated pilot and that’s what I’m aspiring to be. It’s good to have someone I can trust entirely that I can ask him questions.”

Reflecting on the words of a former branch chief warrant officer, Michael said for their family, it’s about serving something greater than self.

“Myke Lewis said it perfectly, he said ‘I was just honored to be part of something bigger than myself.’ I couldn’t agree more. That is why we are here.”

Michael said the priorities he had learned from his own father served as a guide for their family over the years.

“It’s God, family, pretty much everything else,” he said. “I molded these into God, family, Army. There’s times when we must sacrifice for the Army, but that’s only to support the family. Deployments are a good example.”

He commended the strength and support of his wife Suk, whom he married in 1990, and the spiritual resiliency that has kept them throughout the years.

“The glue that holds us together is God. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our relationship,” said Michael, whose oldest son chose a career path focused on biblical studies.

Michael said the Army is largely a “family business”; only about 25 percent of those who join do not have Army family ties. He also noted that his and Jacob’s is but one of many parent-child legacies in Army Aviation.

“I see phenomenal families throughout the Army. It’s amazing the resilience of the Army families. If the family is not behind the soldier, the soldier can’t do his job. That is the key. Suk and the boys have always been there to support me, and therefore I was able to be there to support them,” he said.

Michael said he is grateful for this moment in time.

“We have got this opportunity that parents don’t get, to be here at the same time as him,” he said.

Michael appreciates the candid feedback that he as a senior leader receives by having a son who serves. Recently when he prepared to speak at a hometown recruiting visit, he asked Jacob what he thought his message should be, and was grateful for, but probably not surprised by, his input.

“Jake said, ‘Dad, when you’re talking to them, tell them that they can be part of a team.

“They will always be part of a team’.”