April 30, 2008 (by SSgt Samuel King Jr.) - Dusting Arkansas crops from his cousin's plane at five-years-old was all it took for Lt. Col. SAM Shaneyfelt, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron commander, to know he wanted to be a pilot.
Lt. Col. Sam Shaneyfelt, 85th Test and Evaluation commander, climbs out of his F-16 after he reached the 3,000 hour mark in the skies over Hill AFB on April 24th, 2008. He becomes only the 139th Air Force pilot to reach 3,000 hours in an F-16. [Photo by Alex R. Lloyd]
Realizing his dream by becoming an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot for the Air Force, the colonel, now 43, just reached another milestone, crossing the 3,000-hour mark in his favorite aircraft.
"She's fast, lethal and drop dead gorgeous - I couldn't have asked for anything more," said the colonel, who became only the 139th Air Force member to reach the mark. "It's important to remember though that every one of those hours I've flown is due to the support actions from the incredible maintenance teams and dedicated squadron professionals."
The dream of being a pilot almost didn't happen until the colonel's college roommate encouraged him during his senior year to look into the Air Force.
"The rest is history," said the squadron commander. "I went down to the recruiter the next week."
Only two pilots have reached the next milestone of 5,000 hours, so the colonel has an uphill challenge ahead of him, but he is still savoring this milestone, especially with his family.
"The most important and meaningful part of this has been the support from my kids and my lovely wife Jackie," said the colonel, who goes by the callsign "Boomer." "She's been with me every step of the way and I couldn't have done it without her."